Avoid being the victim of an unscrupulous builder | Fin24
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Avoid being the victim of an unscrupulous builder

Apr 08 2018 08:22

Many of us have been victims of unscrupulous building contractors or know someone who has been. My sister was one of those victims, who, despite hiring someone she believed to be a reputable project manager to oversee her renovations, was left with a building disaster in which all the aluminium doors and windows had to be replaced, as well as having to completely redo the screed floor. The project manager placed herself under liquidation, so my sister never received a cent in compensation and, to rub salt into the wound, the building crew even stole the gas fittings from her stove top, as well as light fittings! It turned out that, in order to cut costs and pocket more money, the project manager had hired fly-by-night builders.

So, when I read the press release by the Master Builders’ Association (MBA) North about home owner Jenny Reidt Uys who suffered a similar experience, I wondered what my sister could have done differently to protect herself.

Uys contacted the MBA North after having been let down very badly by a contractor recommended by the estate in which she was building her house. According to Uys, her building problems ranged from faulty tiling and scratched aluminium window frames to a collapsed ceiling thanks to substandard plumbing. Electrical, gas and even glass installations did not meet municipal building standards. In each case, fraudulent certificates were issued by contractors who turned out to be noncompliant with the relevant standards authorities. Although the engineer signed off the roof, she had a second engineer inspect it. He, too, signed it off. However, a third engineer has now declared the roof to be so poorly constructed that it renders the house unsafe to live in.

Once it was discovered that these certificates had been fraudulent, the municipality withdrew the certificate of occupation and Uys is unable to live in her home – despite paying the building loan off each month.

“Based on my experience, I strongly advise anyone doing any building to inspect all their certificates to be sure, and treat any recommendations for contractors with circumspection. For added peace of mind, it makes sense to use contractors that adhere to a code of conduct and have been objectively vetted, such as members of the MBA,” says Uys.

Unfortunately, the contractor was not a member of the MBA so the organisation could not intervene, which meant her only recourse was to follow the litigation process for damages caused by the contractor.

But, if he had been a member, would Uys have been better protected?

According to Boitumelo Thipe, marketing and business development manager at MBA North, before contractors can become members of the MBA, they must have been in the industry for at least three years. They must have five valid work references. These are checked thoroughly and the developers or architects that have used them are consulted in order to ascertain that their skills are genuine. As members, they are subject to a code of conduct which includes membership of the National Home Builders’ Registration Council (NHBRC), whose legal and contractual department assists the public or other contractors who have complaints about members, through dispute resolution without litigation.

However, the best way to avoid a building nightmare is to do proper research and get reliable references. A good place to start is the Master Builders SA (MBSA) website under Find a Builder.

When you interview a contractor, find out if they are registered with NHBRC and Master Builders, and have workers compensation as well as a valid company registration and tax clearance certificate.

If you are using a project manager, still do your homework to make sure they are using reputable contractors. Find out if they are members of the NHBRC and a master builders association if they are a home builder.

“MBA North is the only association that vets builders and checks references for previous work done. You have the option to decide if you want to appoint the main contractor or if you hand over that choice to the project manager. It is a risk that has to be evaluated prior to making a decision on the contractor involved,” says Thipe.

And always get at least two references, but don’t just accept it in writing – speak to the individuals, ask probing questions and ask to see the work before you commit.



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