Council calls on Contractors to deliver service as promised

February 28, 2019

Renovation and refurbishment of an existing home is becoming more and more important these days as space and resources are often limited, especially in urban areas. 

There are many reasons for renovation, with the enhancement of the living comfort and indoor climate being the most important. 

Undertaking a renovation is a time consuming, costly and sometimes extremely stressful task. This cost and stress can be compounded when consumers fall prey to unscrupulous building contractors. 

These unscrupulous contractors often fool consumers and manage to take payment without completing the intended works. 

The Consumer Council of Fiji has received cases where consumers also complain about poor quality workmanship, use of inferior or sub-standard materials, and non-completion of work within the scheduled time-frame. 

A remarkable $3.45m in construction complaints was registered by the Council in the last five years. These were from a total of 170 complaints. Last year there were $0.9m worth of complaints while in 2017 the Council received 51 complaints worth a soaring $1.6m. For this year, three cases have been registered costing consumers $4500. 

The Council recently dealt with a complaint where a frustrated consumer, Sera, was convinced by a building contractor that renovations to her flat would be completed on time. The contractor was given two months to complete the renovation of the flat, but failed to adhere to the stipulated timeframe. Sera was given false hope of when the work would be completed. Stressed with what had transpired, she lodged her complaint at the Council. 

According to the agreement between Sera and the contractor, the renovation was to be carried out in certain working phases with payment to be made upon completion of each phase. 

However, the respondent had also asked the complainant to make payments in between and she had paid him $22,500. Despite this, the respondent failed to complete the scope of works within the two months as per agreement. The respondents even used the excuse that they had underquoted

the complainant, and now required further funds to complete the pending works. During mediation, the respondent refused to re-do the work and as such, Sera engaged a lawyer for breach of contract.

In another recent case, a complainant sought the Council’s assistance after the contractor he engaged, did not complete the work. 

The complainant paid the contractor $6780 for the wiring of the new extension of his house.

However, the home owner was left unsatisfied with the work because the wiring within the home was incomplete and the electrical wire were dangerously exposed posing a high risk of electrocution. In addition, the respondent had also taken four new roofing irons from the complainant, promising to replace them at a later date. Unfortunately the contractor replaced the new roofing irons with old and worn roofing irons. The Council started a mediation with a site inspection following which, the respondent agreed to refund the agreed amount to the complainant. 

Given such cases, the Council urges consumers to be mindful of their actions and the possible consequences, particularly when dealing with service providers where thousands of dollars are at stake. 

It is calling for consumers to avoid falling prey to the gimmicks of some unscrupulous building contractors who fool consumers to get their payment without completing the intended works.

The Council is also calling for the accreditation and licensing process of building contractors to be stringent as consumers have suffered for too long and lost their hard earned money at the hands of some unscrupulous building contractors. Consumers should be able to choose from a list of accountable and ethical building contractors who are insured and can complete the work in a timely manner. With accreditation, contractors will be fully compliant with work ethics which will in turn re- build lost trust. 

Consumers should also seek out a building contractor that can provide professional and efficient services to achieve the best possible results for their home renovation. Much of the time a few people may procure a friend with knowledge of building or use someone to whom they were recommended yet know nothing about building projects. 

This can prompt a wide range of issues including people being duped. So to guarantee that you get the most noteworthy, quality, services for your dollar, be sure to do your research and ask multiple sources about the abilities of a building contractor. Ask for examples of previous work and where possible, speak with former clients. This will ensure that you are fully aware of the capabilities and reputation of your building contractor before you enter any agreement. 

The Council is also aware that there are contractors out there who promise to deliver exceptional, efficient and cost effective services. They should serve as an example to other unscrupulous traders. Contractors who ensure that they complete jobs on time and on budget will be assured of further business and this is in the best interests of all involved.