Do you have have a renovation project in mind? The following tips may be of interest to you before you hire a contractor.

Here are tips to help you choose the contractor that will do the renovation work you need. By choosing carefully, you increase your chances of being satisfied with the work done, and avoid potential problems.

Choosing a well-established merchant

Ask for recommendations from family and friends to get the names of reliable contractors. You can also browse lists of contractors that are displayed on professional association or corporation websites, or look through the phone book.

Beware of contractors who do not provide their full adress, or give you only a telephone number to reach them. Should any problem arise, you could have trouble tracking down the contractor.

Before making a choice, visit contractors to see how they work. That way, you'll be able to assess the materials they use and the efficiency of their employees.

Checking whether the merchant holds the required licence

Make sure the contractor holds a licence from the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ).

Such licences prove that the RBQ has verified the contractor's professional qualifications and solvency. In some cases, the licence also ensures that the contractor has provided a security deposit. A security deposit is a sum that could be used to compensate you if there is a problem, such as a construction defect.

Checking whether the contractor has an itinerant merchant permit

Contractors are considered itinerant merchants if they solicit your business outside of their actual offices, for example, if they come to your home to sell their products or services.

What if you asked a contractor to come and meet you at your home? The Regulation respecting the application of the Consumer Protection Act considers a contractor as an itinerant merchant when he or she sells, installs or repairs:

  • doors and windows;
  • thermal insulation;
  • roofing or exterior wall covering of a building.

This type of merchant must hold a permit from the Office de la protection du consommateur and provide you with a written contract.

Checking whether the contractor has liability insurance

If the contractor is insured, you will be better protected in the event of any damage to your property, a neighbour's property, or personal injury.

Getting information about a contractor

You can get information about a contractor using our Get information about a merchant tool. By entering the name of a contractor, you will find out:

  • if contractor holds a permit, in the case of an itinerant merchant;
  • if the Office has previously intervened with that contractor;
  • if the contractor has received formal notices from consumers.

You should clearly define your renovation project, then draw up a plan, especially if you plan on having major renovation work done. This plan will help you know where you’re going and work within your budget.

Request an estimate

Hand over your plan to 3 different contractors and ask them to provide an estimate, that is, a written evaluation of the costs and materials to do the work. The costs can be estimated in different ways. The most common types of estimates are the following: a fixed overall price for the entire project, or an hourly rate for a predetermined number of work hours.

Contents of an estimate

For example, the estimate should include the following information :

  • a description of the work to be done and the materials to be used;
  • the total cost of the work, with detailed items;
  • the terms of payment;
  • the scheduled start and end of work dates.

Some contractors might request a down payment before starting the work. Here are tips on how to make your payments.

Making payments to a general contractor

The law does not detail how contracting work should be paid for. If possible, do not provide a down payment to a contractor, or pay only a very small sum. Some consumers have lost money after a company closed its doors, for example.

Paying an itinerant merchant

What if you concluded an agreement with an itinerant merchant? A contractor is considered an itinerant merchant if they solicit your business outside of their actual offices, for example, if they come to your home to sell their products or services.

What if you asked a renovation contractor to come and meet you at your home? The Consumer Protection Act considers a contractor as an itinerant merchant when :

  • they sell or install doors, windows, rooftops, thermal insulation, or exterior cladding;
  • they execute work linked to the sale or installation of such elements.

This type of contractor generally cannot request or accept a down payment within the 10 days that follow the day you receive the signed copy of your contract. They may do so under one condition only: if they have delivered goods you purchased, such as materials. This rule applies because, over those 10 days, you have the right to cancel your contract. You should therefore refuse to allow the work to begin before the end of that 10-day period to avoid any conflict.

If goods were delivered to you, the contractor may ask for payment, but they are required to deposit that money in a trust account until the end of the 10-day delay.

Some merchants are exempt from this requirement, provided for in article 255 of the Consumer Protection Act. Refer to our tool Getting informed about a merchant to know whether the contractor you hire benefits from such an exemption.

Paying renovation work in installments

Whether you hired a general contractor or an itinerant merchant, you should reach an agreement with them to pay for the work in installments, following the progress of the renovation project. You could, for example, retain one last payment, representing 10 to 15 % of the total project costs, until the work is completely done. This will ensure the work will be entirely done and finished to your satisfaction.

Making a payment over 2 months before the start of the work

If the merchant requests a payment to be made over 2 months in advance :

  • check whether they have a trust account;
  • write down the check payable to “[name of the merchant] in trust”.

A trust account will protect you in case the company goes bankrupt or closes its doors. The amounts deposited in such an account could serve as damages if something happens.

Some merchants are exempt from having to have this type of account. Refer to our tool Getting informed about a merchant to know whether the contractor you hire benefits from such an exemption.

Knowing the rules if a contract is concluded by phone or online

If you concluded a contract by phone or online, the merchant is allowed to request or accept a payment before the work starts under only one condition: if you pay by credit card.

Concluding a detailed agreement with the contractor you hire is to your benefit. The more details your contract contains, the better informed you will be regarding what to expect.

Contract concluded in person

The Office de la protection du consommateur recommends that you always request a written contract from the contractor you hire. A written contract will make it more likely the results will conform to what you expected. It will also make it easier to assert your rights if the work is not properly done or not completed.

Useful information to be included in the contract

The contract does not have to adhere to a specific form, especially if you are doing business with an itinerary merchant. Make sure that everything that was promised by the contractor is included in the contract, along with all important details. The contract should include :

  • the contractor’s name and address;
  • the license and permit numbers, if they are required;
  • the scheduled start and end of work dates;
  • a statement in which the contractor commits to abide by the municipal regulations and the National Building Code standards;
  • the contractor's liability insurance policy number and the name of the insurance company;
  • a detailed description of the work to be done, along with the type and quantity of materials to use (make sure to append the estimate to the contract);
  • the total cost and the terms of payment.

To ensure the work will be done within the specified time limits, ask for the following note to be added to the contract: "The work will be completed before or on (date); otherwise the contractor will refund the down payment paid by the client."

Also make sure to add a note mentioning the contract total includes the removal of construction debris at the end of the project, especially if you had major renovation work done.

Also make sure to indicate the contractor must obtain your authorisation before doing work that was not included in the contract.

Contract concluded with an itinerant merchant

Did you conclude an agreement with an itinerant merchant? A contractor is considered an itinerant merchant if they solicit your business outside of their actual offices, for example, if they come to your home to sell their products or services.

What if you asked a renovation contractor to come and meet you at your home? The Consumer Protection Act considers a contractor as an itinerant merchant when :

  • they sell or install doors, windows, shingles on rooftops, thermal insulation, or exterior cladding;
  • they execute work linked to the sale or installation of such elements.

The law prescribes that such a contract must be concluded in writing and that it includes all mandatory information. For further information, refer to the page Contents of an itinerant merchant contract.

A contract concluded with an itinerant merchant can be cancelled within 10 days. For further information about cancelling this type of contract, refer to the section Cancelling a contract concluded in person.

Contract concluded by phone or online

If you plan on choosing a contractor over the phone or online, know that the law provides that a distance contract must be provided in writing.

Information to obtain before signing a contract

Before concluding a contract, the merchant must provide certain mandatory information. For example :

  • their name, address, phone number and, if available, their fax number and email address;
  • a detailed description of the services offered;
  • the total amount you will need to pay and, if it applies, the amount to be paid on periodic payments;
  • the terms of payment;
  • the start date of the construction work;
  • the duration of the work;
  • the cancellation terms;
  • any other condition or restriction that applies to the contract.

Transmission of the written contract

The contractor must provide a written contract within 15 days after you entered into an agreement. This will allow you to verify whether the contract's contents correspond to the offer that was made to you. The contract must be presented in a way that allows you to hold on to it.

Content of the written contract

The contract must include your name and your address, the contract signature date, and all the other mandatory information the merchant must provide before you enter into an agreement.

The Office recommends that you not sign any document before making a final decision to hire a contractor. Contrary to popular belief, you do not always have the right to cancel a signed contract if you change your mind within 10 days.

For further information, refer to the page Cancelling a Contract.

Beware of renovation contractors that provide false information to sell their services.

A contractor rings to your door and declares that your roof could collapse if you don't repair it right away? Wait before assigning them the work. Request estimates from other contractors, too. If in doubt, request the opinion of an expert.

Recourse

If a merchant provided false or misleading information, you should contact the Office de la protection du consommateur to report the merchant. The Contact us page provides the ways to reach us.

You recommend this page: https://www.opc.gouv.qc.ca/

Last update : November 21, 2022

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The information contained on this page is presented in simple terms to make it easier to understand. It does not replace the texts of the laws and regulations.