John Graham, CEO of home inspection company HouseCheck says fraud and misrepresentation is rife among “bakkie builders” operating in the South African home extension and renovation industry. Graham says that very seldom does one hear of a home alteration being finalized without an unpleasant and often costly fight between the home owner and the builder.
HouseCheck reports already protect cautious South African home buyers from making expensive mistakes when purchasing a property. However many home buyers want to alter, extend or otherwise renovate their new house and that is where more expensive mistakes and huge stress and conflict can easily occur. Graham adds that usually, both the builder and the home owner are jointly to blame for this very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
• More often than not the deal was concluded with a brief one-page quote from the contractor and a handshake. There is no properly drawn, detailed and legally binding written contract, schedule of works or bill of quantities.
• The home owner, who has a tight budget, wants to get everything done as cheaply as possible and the builder who is desperate for the work becomes quite creative in his vague promises and undertakings.
• The more unscrupulous builders also sometimes use a combination of subtle blackmail and sob stories to extract part payments from the owner far in excess of the value of works actually completed to date. Sometimes the builder even temporarily (or permanently) abandons the job and uses the money extracted from the gullible home owner to bankroll the start of his next job.
• It is also quite common for the builder, as the job draws to a close, to present the owner with a list of “extras” which need to be paid for before the job can proceed. Sometimes these extras are a result of variations to the original specification asked for by the owner. However, very often the “extras” constitute items like waterproofing, or steps which the owner assumed was incorporated in the original quote and specification.
Graham advises home owners to:
• Never let any builder or contractor start work on your property until a legally enforceable written contract, including a detailed schedule of works has been signed.
• Ensure that all of the contractor’s workmen are properly qualified, registered and insured and check the trade references of the contractor with previous clients.
• Make sure the contract stipulates a fair schedule of payment “draws” and stick strictly to the payment terms. Don’t be pressured into making additional payments.
• Ensure that the contract provides for a retention of 10 per cent of the contract value to be held for 90 days after the contractor has left site. This ensures that if problems and snags arise (and they will) there is money out to sort out these issues.
• For an agreed fee HouseCheck will check the contract beforehand and also scope the schedule of work. This helps ensure that all foreseeable works and “extras” are included and have been costed into the original contract and don’t become a later bone of contention.
• HouseCheck inspectors will also inspect the completed works and provide the owner with a written report on the quality and condition of this work. (Staged inspections by HouseCheck can also be allowed for in the contract.)
• HouseCheck reports provide both owner and contractor with an informed and factual third-party documentation of the condition of the building work.
• HouseCheck fees for this service are by quotation and depend on the scope of the work. Generally HouseCheck will charge around R3000 per inspection and report.
o First inspection and report - contract scrutiny and scoping of schedule of works.
o Second inspection - quality control report when contracted works have been completed.
o Interim inspections and reports for larger jobs – as required by the client.