We’ve all heard those stories of fly-by-night building contractors, who take the money and run, leaving a trail of shoddy workmanship. If you want to save yourself a whole lot of grief and stress, we suggest you ask your potential builder a few questions before signing on the dotted line.
What professional bodies does your builder belong to?
There are two primary associations to which your builder should belong – the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) and the Master Builders Association South Africa (MBSA).
The NHBRC regulates and certifies industry standards of construction, technical and financial capabilities, which all need to be met by building contractors.
You can check whether your contractor is affiliated to the council, has been suspended or deregistered on the NHBRC website (www.nhbrc.org.za). There’s also has a warranty system, which covers major structural defects caused by poor workmanship.
The MBSA (https://www.masterbuilders.org.za) is there to ensure best practice and sustainability. If you feel a builder has not delivered, you can approach the MBSA for advice, inspections and mediation.
What certificates will I get once the building has been completed?
When you sign off on the project, your builder needs to provide you with certain documents, such as an electrical certificate that states that the wiring meets municipal standards.
One procedure that is often overlooked, or carried out by uncertified building contractors, is termite control. This needs to be tackled by a pest control operator registered with the South African Pest Control Association (www.sapca.org.za).
What type of industry experience does your company have?
This is the big question. Get references for previous work your potential builder has done, and make contact with the clients to find out their experience.
See if you can visit some of the projects to get a better look at the quality of the work.
Are you registered with the Compensation Fund of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COID Act)?
You could be held liable if a worker is injured or worse on the job and your contractor is not registered with the government-regulated Compensation Fund. They must have a Letter of Good Standing saying they comply with the stringent requirements of the fund.
What is your capacity at the moment?
You spend hours briefing your builder on the project only to find he can only start in six months. Establish upfront whether he is available to work according to your timeframe.
In addition, many builders will take on too much work. Make sure that yours is completely honest about what they can and cannot handle.
Do you have a detailed contract agreement in place?
An airtight contract covering the agreed-upon budget, timeframe, job specifications, methods of payment, labour and building material costs can be your saving grace if things start going wrong.
Comprehensive contracts are available from the MBSA.