Here’s how to make sure that the exciting business of creating your dream home has a happy ending.

By Nthabiseng Moloi, MiWay Head of Marketing & Brand

Whether you are renovating an existing house or building a new one, it is exciting to kick off the process of getting the builders in and seeing new developments, improvements and features added to your property. Bear in mind however, that the process can go wrong, particularly if you choose the wrong contractors.

Getting the wrong contractors in can cost you money, cause plenty of stress, or even result in a house that collapses later

That is exactly what happened to people across Johannesburg after a storm earlier this year. Many homes across the city’s southern and western suburbs collapsed or were damaged beyond repair, leading to the Mayor, Herman Mashaba, commissioning an investigation into building quality and the identities of contractors involved.

Avoid the heartache by checking out our recommendations for how to avoid fly-by-night operators and get the best outcomes for your investment in a better home

Work with a reputable builder

It all begins with finding a builder who knows his business. One of the main benefits is that the quality of the work done is likely to be superior and the project is most likely to succeed.

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If, however, something goes wrong, it will be an advantage to be working with a builder who is registered with the Master Builders Association. Its members are held to strict codes of conduct and must meet stringent quality guidelines. The MBA assesses builders and checks references for previous work done.

As important, when there is a dispute, customers working with a legitimate MBA member have recourse. The MBA’s Legal and Contractual department assists the public or other contractors who have complaints about members through dispute resolution that does not involve litigation. Simply put, the MBA will try and resolve the issue fairly.

The mediation process seeks to find a solution acceptable to all the parties involved. If this is not possible, a dispute resolution process is initiated, which can include adjudication and arbitration over and above the mediation.

If something goes wrong, it will be an advantage to be working with a builder who is registered with the Master Builders Association

By contrast, if a dispute arises and your contractor is not a member of MBA and is also not a member of the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), your only option is to get lawyers involved. This can be costly and time-consuming, at best.

To become a member of the MBA, a builder or contractor must have at least three years’ experience, five valid references for work done and from suppliers, a valid company registration certificate and tax clearance certificate, and registration with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) or the NHBRC, the regulatory body of the home building industry.

On that note: Where does NHBRC fit into this?

You are more likely to encounter the NHBRC on a new home build, because this organisation is responsible for inspecting houses at critical stages of construction. The inspections confirm workmanship and quality. If problems are identified, a non-compliance notice is issued to the builder, who is required to rectify the issue. If the builder cannot or will not sort out the problem, the NHBRC will stop construction and institute disciplinary procedures against the contractor.

There is a further protection. If a defect appears after you moved into a new house, your first port of call is the builder. If the issue(s) are not resolved, report it to the NHBRC, which will investigate the problem. If the builder has not complied with acceptable practice and fails to sort the problem out, it can be struck from the NHBRC’s list of members.

If the problem arose despite compliance with the Standards and Guidelines, the underwriters (insurers) of the NHBRC will fund the repair under certain circumstances.

How to find a reputable contractor

So where does one find this all-important builder? Good question. The answer is to navigate to the MBA website, and locate the ‘find a builder’ tool. This will help you identify if a builder is a member of this professional standards organisation.

A further check is to see if it is a member of the NHBRC. Verify what the builder tells you by phoning the industry associations to confirm the memberships, as the industry is rife with operators who might falsely claim membership.

Do not stop there either – ask the builder for references and then follow up with those references including, if possible, site visits to see previous work done.

Other items to look out for include asking if the builder has workman’s compensation in place to protect its staff and checking that the company is properly registered. These are all signs that you are dealing with an operation that takes itself seriously.

One thing to bear in mind is that some building projects might mean that the alarm system is deactivated for certain periods – share this information with your insurer to ensure that your cover is maintained

Get the proper insurance cover

What about your insurance, then, if a renovation goes wrong? Whether or not it is covered comes down to the workmanship and the terms and conditions of your home owner’s insurance policy. It is wise to discuss your renovation plans with your insurer and find out what it will cover and under what conditions.

One thing to bear in mind is that some building projects might mean that the alarm system is deactivated for certain periods – share this information with your insurer to ensure that your cover is maintained.

At the end of the project, do not forget that you have added to the value of your property. Contact your insurer to adjust your building cover accordingly. Your insurer will advise you if it needs any supporting documentation.

Follow these guidelines and make sure your building project delivers the great results you want.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970).