Vancouver’s real-estate market has been on the rise and contractors are in high demand. From the maintenance of a real-estate investment to renovating or building a house; more people are generally inclined to enter into an agreement with a contractor or builder. An agreement struck with a contractor for restoration, renovation or building services fall within the scope of contract law. What this means in most circumstances is that your agreement is governed by the terms of the contract you and your contractor signed, prior to starting the job.
Even when a well-drafted contract is put in place outlining all the rights and obligations of each party, disputes are still commonplace. There are numerous ways to resolve a dispute with your contractor/builder and it’s imperative that you know what can be done to protect what is in your best interest. Often times a dispute can be settled directly between the parties, saving court filing fees, legal fees, and often times a portion of the other party’s costs. Other situations, however, will require a more formal method of dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration, or a claim to the supreme court. If your claim against your contractor is for less than $35,000, small claims court is an effective way to resolve your dispute. The Small Claims Act provides parties to a claim with any definitions and procedural steps that may be unclear.
If the amount in dispute is greater than the $35,000 upper limit of Small Claims Court, mediation, arbitration or the Supreme Court of British Columbia is where you are likely to end up. The key difference between mediation and arbitration is that the decision made by an arbitrator is binding. Mediation is similar to a couple getting counseling in an attempt to bring both parties to a resolution. If the relationship between the two parties has in fact soured and is beyond salvaging, it’s probably best to skip this step. It is imperative to keep any communication between yourself and the contractor to written form, or at least have them confirm it in writing if anything substantial was agreed to verbally. A simple text message, email, or letter can go a long way when parties find themselves in a “he said she said” situation.
Lastly, under the Builders Lien Act, a contractor has the power to put a lien on your property for any work completed if they remain unpaid. It’s important to note that this does not entitle the contractor to the amount he/she is claiming. It simply provides the contractor with 1 year to advance a claim in court, as set out in the Builders Lien Act. If no claim is advanced within the year, pursuant to s.22, the lien is extinguished.
Disputes can arise in any agreement made between two parties, let alone for something as specific and with as many moving parts as a home renovation/build. Our lawyers and staff at Sodagar & Company are experienced and act for both homeowner and contractor in these disputes. Feel free to contact our team with any questions you may have.
 Small Claims Act [RSBC 1996] Chapter 430 <http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96430_01>
 Builders Lien Act [SBC 1997] Chapter 45 < http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/lc/statreg/97045_01>