How to be a good client

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black book sxc

sxc.hu

Builders are notorious for keeping little black books on clients, so if you have been a bad payer or unreasonable first time round, the next price you are quoted for a job will escalate.

Cape Town - Collusion, collusion, collusion.

Despite having been asked to comment, I am not going to be drawn into the debate around who built the stadiums for what. This is way out of my league.

But the headlines did make me think about you and your building and how the system works or, in most cases, does not.

Like clients, builders talk to each other. Just as you might discuss your contractor at a dinner party or on the golf course, builders occasionally meet for a beer and discuss their clients. Builders are notorious for keeping little black books on clients, so if you have been a bad payer or unreasonable first time round, the next price you are quoted for a job will escalate.

So how do you get a fair price?

* Do appoint a quantity surveyor to prepare a bill of quantities and check the tenders.

* Do not invite 10 contractors and dish out rolls of drawings, because nine of them will know they are not going to get the job and will not bother to tender, or just stick in a stupid price. Would you take a 10-to-1 bet, if there is a 2-to-1 bet going down the road?

* Do not invite unregistered contractors to tender because the properly compliant contractors know they don’t have a chance.

* Do not automatically accept the lowest price because the chances are it is wrong. Have a good hard look at the one closest to the average price.

Questions and answers

From Anonymous: “Your advice is that rubble and sand piles should be well watered to prevent dust. I speak under correction, but a city by-law states that no drinking water be used for this purpose.”

Peter wrote: My wife and I live in a small close. She is the chairwoman of the Homeowners Association. One of the units is being renovated and the heaps of builders’ sand piled in the driveway are constantly blowing over the road into a neighbour’s driveway and pool. The builder does cover the sand but does not wet it down. The complaining neighbour’s place looks like a sand dune, and I am afraid something violent is going to go down soon. (If it was my house I would have poured oil over the sand by now.) Do you have any advice?”

Answer: I’ve spoken to a friend who is a senior manager in the city's environmental department and our conclusion is:

* I don’t mean to sound flippant, but the only readily available water in Cape Town is drinking water. The by-law was probably introduced during a period of drought to comply with water restrictions.

* The sand problem is first and foremost one to be handled by the local building inspector, who can threaten to issue a work stoppage notice if the problem is not resolved.

If the builder remains unco-operative you might suggest that he could receive a visit from the Department of Labour and the Building Bargaining Council to check his health and safety plan and his necessary compliance documentation.

Janis writes: We recently had our house painted inside and out.

We hired a guy up the road whom we knew so we trusted him. Things have not quite turned out as we expected.

His team were not properly trained and they spilt lots of paint – on my floors, window sills etc and even two pots of paint fell over so that he had to paint the back stoep a horrid mustard colour and scrub our driveway.

He then convinced us to use a new brown paint for our windows (which are wooden and were white before). But they did not sand them properly and the paint when applied remained sticky and wet. It is still sticky and peeling off all over the show.

The team of guys also trampled and killed many plants in my beloved garden and we found litter and screws and nails in the beds when they had gone.

We have held back R2 000 in the payment, but I feel we should have only paid the deposit.

What do you think?

Answer: I don’t want to sound harsh, and we all know hindsight is easy, but you need to stick to the golden rules:

* Don’t employ friends or acquaintances; they do not remain friends for long.

* Don’t pay deposits.

* When things don’t go right, like the paint spillage, stop and re-evaluate the situation.

* Before work begins, lay down the ground rules about looking after your property.

Despite all this, you are just one of hundreds who get caught daily. My gut feel is you have little chance of him re-doing the work; going to court will only cost you money. If he is a registered contractor, let me know and I will see if I can apply pressure. If all else fails, have a chat to the paint manufacturer and tell him how his paint has been applied by a “dodgy” contractor using their materials. They should drag him in and give him a severe warning; you never know, they might get involved.

Good Neighbour from Hout Bay asks: My neighbour is building a house, and we have a dividing wall between our properties. I have a number of shrubs and creepers etc growing up my wall and over the wall, hanging down on his side. This has been the case for many years and was kept like that with the approval of the previous owner of the land.

My new neighbour’s builder says it is my responsibility to remove the overhanging shrubs and branches at my expense. I disagree.

What is the general rule within the building trade and what is legally the correct thing to do?

Answer: I’m not a legal expert, I go more on gut feel. I would suggest that what is yours is yours and you are responsible for looking after it. If the new neighbour, rather than the builder (who might just be trying to save himself some money) has asked reasonably for the plants to be removed, then you probably should. This is probably a better option than letting the builder hack it all down. I’d be interested if any readers have different views. Maybe cut a deal with the builder: you cut it all down to ensure it is done properly, if he agrees to take it away. - Weekend Argus

* Please keep your questions or comments coming to don@macalister.co.za or sms only to 082 446 3859.

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