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From time to time a house may need some renovations as the building ages. It may be necessary to do, for example, a roof or drainage renovation. When hiring a contractor to do the renovation work the client should pay attention to a few important things.

Often renovation starts by requesting offers or quotes from contractors. It is important to provide the contractors with all the necessary information to avoid, for example, unexpected extra work. It is wise to request  the offer in writing and compare offers.

We advise that an agreement with the contractor is always made in writing. There are no formal requirements as to a renovation agreement, so the agreement may also be made verbally. However, verifying a verbal agreement is practically impossible if the parties disagree on what has been agreed. A written and clear contract is an advantage for both of the parties in case of a dispute. On the other hand, the contract may consist of several parts, for example emails where the contents of the renovation have been discussed.

It is possible for a consumer to make an agreement by accepting a (written) offer made by the contractor via the principle of offer and acceptance. On the other hand, a separate works contract may be drawn up as well. One must pay particular attention to the contents of the contract. Are all the necessary materials and work included in the contract price? Are any unpredictable events during the contract assessed? Also, the price and payment terms are important from the consumer’s point of view. When is the contract price due and are there installments? Will the entire price be paid only after the work has finished, or are payments tied to the progression of the work? The consumer’s interest would be paying only after the renovation is completed, but especially with larger renovations contractors often don’t accept this sort of arrangement.

Completing the work is particularly important when renovating prevents the use of the entire house or the use of vital part of it, such as te bathroom. When is the contractual work to be completed and what will happen if the contractual duties are not performed? Will the consumer get compensation for the delay and how much?

Consumer agreements are relatively broadly regulated by the Consumer Protection Act, which is, as a rule, a peremptory law for the benefit of a consumer.  Thus, the consumer has the right to invoke the law’s superiority even when there is a binding contract. In any case, the consumer should agree on the matters in advance as accurate as possible. If the contract is accompanied by contractor’s general terms, the consumer should definitely get to know them before signing the contract. By signing it, the consumer accepts the terms of the contract as a part of the agreement.

The consumer is entitled to an agreed contract with the agreed price. In general, the disputes that end up in court, relate to the outcome of a contract for which the consumer is unhappy for some reason. In the worst case, there are significant construction defects. Disputes may also concern a delay of the work.

In a case of dispute, it is important for the consumer to react in time and make a written complaint to the contractor. The defects of the contract must be identified in the complaint as accurately as possible. If the consumer doubts the quality of work, it may be wise to acquire a third-party expert as soon as possible to examine the outcome of the work and to share his or her own view.

As referred in the Consumer Protection Act a consumer may not invoke a defect if he/she does not notify the contractor within a reasonable time after the customer discovered or ought to have discovered the defect. The complaint should be done rapidly and the time of filing a complaint passes even when the consumer is not yet aware of the defect if, as a thorough person, he/she should have detected it. The consumer must inspect the outcome of the contract thoroughly after the work has been completed. If the defects are detected during the contract, they must be notified to the contractor without delay.

The concept of reasonable time is open to interpretation. Reasonable time can be considered as weeks rather than several months. If necessary, the complaint can be supplemented later if defects occur little by little.

In case of defect, the consumer has the right to withhold payment of the contract price, unless the remaining price exceeds the requirements that consumer would be entitled to because of the defect. In addition, the consumer has the right to require rectification from the contractor. The contractor also has the right to correct the defect on his own initiative. If the correction cannot be done for one reason or another, the consumer has the right to demand a price reduction, or ultimately dissolving of the agreement. The consumer is also entitled to compensation. Disputes concerning contracts can swell and legal costs can rise to several thousand euros for both sides. Reaching a mutual agreeement is often an advantage for both parties.