Know Who You’re Hiring

dreamstimefree_110772As construction and renovation season arrives and the local economy has gotten leaner, there has been a noticeable increase in unqualified ‘Contractors’ offering services without having required licenses, permits or certifications. While some of these individuals may offer “cut rate” services and discounts, as a consumer you need to protect more than just your pocketbook when selecting a contractor. Some key items to look for when hiring a contractor are:

1. Have the right trades’ people do the work:
• While there may be SOME overlap, Sheet Metal, Gas Fitting, Plumbing, Refrigeration, Electricians, etc. are distinct occupations with specific qualifications and certification requirements.

• The Safety Codes Act states that you cannot authorize someone without the appropriate credentials to do work, with penalties and fines reaching into the six digits!

2. Ask what their credentials are:
• Not only is hiring qualified tradespersons your legal obligation, individuals without proper certifications may lack the skills and knowledge to undertake your project. Should anything go wrong you may not be covered by warrantees or your insurance.

• Qualified tradespersons are provided with a wallet sized copy of their Journeyman Certificate and would be more than happy to show you as verification of their competency.

3. Ask for their Business License number:
• Most municipalities require all businesses working in the area to hold a valid license, regardless of where their office may be located.

• A legal business must hold a license by the municipality. This allows the municipality to ensure the contractor you hire is a legitimate business. Some areas may even require them to show proof of competency to hold a license.

• Business license fees are paid to the municipality to help support town operations. Don’t support the illegal businesses that don’t contribute their share. Doing so increase your taxes.

4. Ask for a current WCB Clearance letter:
• WCB protects you as the property owner. Ensuring that the business has WCB coverage means that YOU can’t be sued if a worker injures themselves on your project.

5. Ask for a copy of the Business’s insurance:
• A contractor without adequate liability insurance, may leave YOU responsible for the costs of property damage and injury caused by the contractor’s carelessness or mistakes.

6. Make sure you get an invoice and it has a business/GST number on it:
• Be leery of discounts for ‘cash deals.’ Should anything go wrong, a cash deal often means off the books and under the table. Don’t expect warranty once they have left the door. Do expect questions from CRA, especially if you plan on writing off the cost of the work as an expense on your taxes.

• GST is applicable to sales even if ‘cash’ is the form of payment.

7. Make sure a permit is obtained for work when required:
• While the person/contractor undertaking the work is normally expected to apply for the permit, it is legally the building owner’s responsibility to ensure that work being done has applicable permits and inspections.

• A permit and inspection protect YOU, not the contractor. It ensures that work done is both safe and to minimum standards of the applicable code regulations.

• Inspectors are hired by the municipality, NOT THE CONTRACTOR. Some illegal and unqualified ‘contractors’ have resorted to implying that a representative of their company is the Safety Codes Officer, or has otherwise approved the installation. Be wary of such claims as they are universally false.

• Some examples of work requiring permits: Installation or replacement of a gas appliance or gas piping, plumbing drainage installations, electrical wiring or alterations, any structural framing/carpentry.

Not only is it your legal obligation as a building owner to hire appropriately qualified contractors, but failure to do so can result in more than just poor workmanship. Poor installations inevitably lead to void manufacturers warrantees, premature equipment failure, expensive repairs, property damage, and, in extreme cases, carbon monoxide poisoning or gas explosions.

Should you have work done which does not meet applicable safety codes, you as the building owner can be ordered by the Safety Codes Council to undertake the repairs and upgrades as needed.

For more information please see Apprenticeship and Industry Training Act, Safety Codes Act, or Alberta Municipal Affairs

*printed in the Thorsby Target, Breton Booster, and Warburg Bugle.