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Apr. 8, 2020 | Wednesday
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Arch-i-text: The contract
What’s in that contract? (Supplied/Brian Marshall)

Brian Marshall


With design plans in-hand, completing the quotation process is relatively straight-forward. The short-listed contractors don’t have to guess at the scope-of-work, it’s there in front of them.

Do not be surprised if a contractor makes suggestions to modify the design based on their build experience. Very often these suggestions can lead to cost savings in the project while leaving the integrity of the design intact. Note that “low-bid” is not always the “best bid”; ensure you understand exactly what each contractor is providing in their quotation including the cost of change-orders (incurred if you make a change in the scope-of-work during the build). All quotes should clearly specify all details, responsibilities and accountabilities in writing. 

Once you have made the final decision on the contractor for the project, it is vital that a written contract be executed by both parties. This contract is not your quote, no matter what format it is presented in. Most reputable contractors will have a standardized contract which was either prepared or reviewed by their lawyer.

Unfortunately, many of these standardized contracts tend to be weighted in the contractor’s favour and provide you little protection. Generally this is not a deliberate action by the contractor to gain advantage, but rather the natural result of their solicitor’s duties and obligations. Unless the contractor specifically directs the inclusion of clauses to protect the client, it is likely such will be absent. Luckily, contracts can be amended prior to execution. 

So, what are some of the items that should be in your contract?

First, a schedule of payment tied directly to completion of project deliverables. These milestones should be clear and unequivocal.

Second, a project schedule with completion dates specified for each deliverable. A penalty clause (usually financial) for failure by the contractor to complete on schedule should be considered.

Third, your right to have any portion of the work inspected by an independent third party expert, at your cost, and the contractor’s responsibility for remediation of any deficiencies found thereby.

Fourth, waiver by the contractor of their right to place a lien on your property; this establishes equal legal recourse for both parties in the event of a dispute.

Finally, if this is a major renovation, run the contract by your lawyer; spending a few bucks now can avoid major problems later!