Legal recourses for a poorly executed renovation project
Last modified: 2018/08/14 | Approximate reading time 7 mins
Renovation work on a home is often a major financial investment for homeowners. As a result, if they are not well carried out, this situation can turn into a nightmare. If this the type of situation you are experiencing, do not lose hope: there are recourses to crack down on the offending contractor. Here is an explanation of the legal recourses that are available to you in case you are unhappy with the work that has been completed on your property.
Sources of dissatisfaction following a renovation project can be very diverse, whether it is a problem with the time required to complete the work, the quality of the renovations or problems that are not fixed, or that occur following the completion of the work.
Here are some examples of situations where you could use the available recourses to solve a problem with a contractor:
- You are unsatisfied with the result of the work, which is inconsistent with the contract you signed with the contractor;
- Problems arise following the completion of the work, including water infiltrations;
- The contractor does not respect deadlines;
- The contractor stops working on the project before the end of the work. The following solutions can be applied in these cases:
Legal recourses for poor quality or unfinished renovation projects
First legal recourse: complaining to their licensing organisation
Every province in Canada has different organizations regulating the licenses that contractors need in order to operate legally. For information about the requirements that contractors have in some of these areas, check out How to launch your renovation company in Canada. If applicable, you will have to contact the organizations directly to know how to complain against a specific person, as well as whether it is possible to make a claim directly through them.
If the contractor is operating in the province of Quebec and has an RBQ license, you can make claims to this organization. However, before making a formal complaint, you must send a registered letter to your contractor and give them 10 days to correct the situation to your satisfaction.
If they ignore your request or do not agree to make the required corrections, you can then send your complaint to the RBQ. However, you will need to ensure that you meet the following three conditions before formally submitting your complaint:
o The contractor you have been dealing with must have a license for the type of renovation work that is included in your complaint;
o You must have proof that a contract has been signed for the same work. A copy of the signed and dated contract must be provided to the RBQ when handling the complaint;
o You must have sent a notice to the contractor. A copy of this document must be sent to the Régie du bâtiment du Québec to process your complaint.
Although it is possible to send the original documents, it would be preferable to send copies, as the documents you send will not be returned to you.
How to write a formal notice/demand letter
As mentioned by Éducaloi, a formal notice (also known as a demand letter) must absolutely include certain elements.
Therefore, the header should indicate:
• The place and date from where and when the letter has been sent;
• The name and contact information of the contractor;
• An explicit mention that this is a formal notice;
• The means used to send the letter, whether by registered mail or through a bailiff;
• A statement that indicates "with all reservations". This is a protection allowing you to specify or add some information after sending the notice.
The core of the letter must contain:
• An explanation of the alleged facts and the date or period of time relating to them;
• The formulation of a clear request and reasons for doing so;
• A precise explanation of the expected results following your request;
• The amount of time the contractor has to respond to your request. This period may vary, as long as it is reasonable;
• What you intend to do if no action is taken upon receiving your formal notice.
The bottom of the page must include:
• Your signature and contact information;
• A mention of others to whom you have sent a copy of the letter, if applicable;
• A mention of the documents sent with your formal notice, if necessary.
Here is an example of a formal notice prepared by the Ministry of Justice.
Need help drafting your notice? Bidsettle.com allows you to do it online, at little cost. The process takes no more than 10 minutes and costs 10 times less than with a lawyer.
These conditions are not met: what should you do?
If the contractor does not have the appropriate license for work performed on your home, your complaint to the RBQ or other organizations of the sort may be considered inadmissible. In this case, you will have to appeal to the Small Claims Court for compensation*. In the event that your claim is greater than this amount, you will have to appeal to a higher court. It should be noted that the same process applies in the absence of a contract.
*In Ontario, the limit for Small Claims Court is 25 000$, in Alberta, the maximum amount is 50 000$, In Quebec, the maximum amount is 15 000$ and in Nova Scotia, the maximum is 25 000$.
Be aware that in Quebec, if you have a contract with an itinerant seller, you can also go to the Small Claims Court as long as you respect the monetary limit of the accepted claims previously discussed.
Conciliation and mediation in cases of uncompleted or poorly executed work
Before resorting to the courts, it is also possible to try out alternative methods to reach a solution with the contractor who is at fault. For example, one can enter a conciliation or mediation process. These two options are different from each other. In the case of conciliation, a third party is present during the negotiation. However, they do not offer solutions to the parties.
Rather, their role is to make sure that everyone is aware of the procedure and that they respect it. It is used to guide them through the discussions. In some cases, a conciliation process may also take place during a trial. This then becomes a settlement conference. This option is only available under certain conditions.
With respect to mediation, a third party acts as a mediator between the two parties. This person must be neutral and to this end, they must be chosen by both parties. Mediation aims to find the best solution for both parties involved. As mentioned before, the mediator is also there to present solutions. They take part in the discussion while ensuring the smooth running of the proceedings.
Complaining to a consumer’s rights organisation
In case you have a problem with a merchant, it is also possible to file a complaint with certain consumer’s rights organisations such as the Office de Protection du Consommateur (OPC) which operates in Quebec, Service Alberta or Consumer Protection Ontario. You must then contact the Office by phone so that your complaint can be received and evaluated. You may be asked to provide certain documents (invoices, contracts, warranty documents, etc.) to further detail your complaint. Later, if your complaint is received, the organizations will guide you in relation to available legal recourses and in some cases, they will intervene directly.
Contact your insurance company to find out if they can provide you with help. Some companies offer their clients a certain number of free hours of legal advice.
More advice for your case against a contractor in court
In order to prove that the work does not respect the standards established by the building code that is currently in effect in your province, you should get the opinion of a professional such as an engineer, an architect or a technologist. Their wise opinion will help you document your request and increase your credibility in court.
In some cases…
If applicable, the licensing organization to which the contractor is associated may intervene to help find a solution. A lack of collaboration from the contractor will be recorded in a file and will probably affect their professional qualification. You can use this information in your court proceedings.
Quebec only: what you should know if you won your lawsuit
If you have successfully won your case and been able to show that you have suffered a prejudice of some sort, you will now be eligible for a $ 20,000 security guarantee for specialized contractors and $40,000 for general contractors. Of course, this is applicable if your contractor has an RBQ licence.
Need help with your legal actions against a contractor?
In an ideal world, all renovation projects would take place in the best conditions. Customers would be satisfied and contractors would have completed high-quality work. Unfortunately, for all kinds of reasons, things don’t always happen that way. That is why in Canada, there are recourses for dealing with this kind of situation.
Anyone facing this kind of problem for the first time may find that the procedures can seem daunting. However, with good support and adequate access to information, it is possible to ensure that these recourses will lead to a solution to the conflict. The Bidsettle.com service provides a simple approach that will help you better understand the steps that are a part of the process, making you feel more confident about your case, and even completing some of the steps or solutions that include writing a formal notice or negotiating, all directly through the website! You can also ask questions to a lawyer at little cost.
Note: this text presents options in case a contractor does not fulfil their part of the contract. It does not represent legal advice. For specific advice about your case, talk to a lawyer.
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