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Signing a contract in proper and due form

What should be in your contract?

Your contractor sells door-to-door or from a kiosk?

You might be dealing with a contractor considered to be an itinerant merchant. Consult the page What a contract with an itinerant merchant containsThis link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window. on the website of the Office de la protection du consommateur.

If you hire a contractor, it is important to sign a renovation contract. This page presents all of the elements that should appear in a renovation contract.

You can also use the Fixed price (lump sum) residential renovation contract model [Fr] – PDF (772 KB) which includes all the required information.

This contract shall not be used to make a contract with an itinerant merchant.

A – Identification

Did you check your contractor’s licence?

Consult the page Choose a licenced contractor.

The contract must clearly identify the client (you) as well as the person who performs the work (the contractor).

Your contract must include:

  • your contact information as a client
  • the address of the location where the work will be carried out
  • the contractor’s contact information
  • the licence number of the contractor
  • the GST and QST numbers of the contractor.

If the contractor:  

  • is a company or a corporation, the contract should also specify the name of the person managing the project, who will be the primary contact.
  • has been chosen on the basis of personal attributes, the parties can agree that the contract cannot be subcontracted except for work requiring a specialized contractor, e.g., an electrician.

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B – Description of the work

This part of the contract establishes as clearly as possible who does what at each stage of the project. Record everything that has been agreed to verbally, without omitting anything, even if something seems obvious.

Fully describe the work to be performed in order to avoid any misunderstanding between you and the contractor.

Here is a list of items to include in this section, where applicable:

  • preparatory work (demolition of walls, cover removal, excavation, etc.)
  • items to be removed (old materials, old appliances, etc.)
  • waste disposal (transport to the dump, management of hazardous waste, etc.)
  • structural aspects (electrical and plumbing connections, casing, etc.)
  • key information (brand, style, colour, quantity, etc.) on the agreed-upon products (appliances, windows, materials, etc.), with reference to the estimate, where appropriate
  • the size and location of the agreed-upon products with reference to the drawings or plans, where appropriate
  • finishing (number of layers of paint, etc.)
  • work not included in the contract.

Ideally, the description of the work should be specific enough so that if the instructions were to be followed to the letter by another contractor, you would have the desired results without any further explanation. You can also attach a multi-page detailed description. The appendix shall be signed by both parties, and section B (Description of the work) of the contract will make reference to it.

For clarity, it is also important to specify what work is not included in the contract.

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C – Work schedule and permits

For projects that involve different stages, the contractor can estimate the completion date of each stage and establish a work schedule with you.

If you perform some work yourself, or if you hire other people to perform them, the work schedule should be done accordingly when the work directly affects the work of the contractor. In this case, it would be preferable to specify the length of time necessary for each type of work, and the period in which the work will be carried out.

The contractor will not be responsible for a delay in the renovation work if the delay is due to your failure to fulfil your obligations under this contract, for additions to this contract, or in the event of force majeure, such as flooding, or exceptional weather conditions.

Before starting your work, you must obtain renovation permits from your municipality. If additional permits are required, determine whether it’s you or the contractor that has to get them, and include it in the contract.

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D – Cost of the work, methods of payment, and acceptance of the work

If this section, decide of the methods of payment with your contractor. Unless there is an agreement saying otherwise, you are not required to pay for the work in advance (section 2111 of the Civil Code of QuébecThis link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window.).

For example, for long-term work, you can agree with the contractor that the payments will be allocated based on the completion of certain stages. If you make a deposit, the amount should correspond to a small portion of the total agreed cost.

If the contract anticipates that the work will commence more than 2 months after signing of the contract, the contractor must place the deposit in a trust account until he performs the work, unless he has been exempted from this requirement by the Office de la protection du consommateur (section 256 of the Consumer Protection ActThis link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window.).

You must make sure that you are satisfied with the results at each stage before paying for the work performed. If you wish, you can seek advice on the matter from a qualified professional.

If you are not satisfied, specify in writing the work to be completed or corrected. You should also withhold from the amount owing for this work an amount commensurate with the value of work that is to be completed or corrected.

Note that you may withhold this amount for as long as and provided that the contractor has not remedied the situation by completing the work and correcting the poor workmanship. Make certain to keep receipts showing that the contractor has been paid for the work performed.

Once the work has been completed, you must, upon acceptance of the work, disclose any apparent poor workmanship or defects, if applicable.

  • If you accept the work with reserve, meaning your acceptance is accompanied by a disclosure of poor workmanship or defects, you may withhold an amount commensurate with the value of work to be done to correct the defects and the poor workmanship.
  • If you accept the work without reservation, then you waive the guarantee covering poor workmanship. However, you still maintain recourse pertaining to non-apparent defects and non-apparent poor workmanship.

You may also withhold an amount commensurate with a percentage of the total cost of the work. You will pay the contractor this amount upon completion of the work when he has proven that he has paid his subcontractors and suppliers (sections 2122 and 2123 of the Civil Code of QuébecThis link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window.).

The contractor may suggest entering into a credit agreement with him or with a third party to finance the renovations. If such a contract is concluded between a merchant and a consumer, it must meet the requirements of the Consumer Protection Act, particularly with regard to the formation and contents of the contract.

Visit the page Credit contract [Fr]This link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window. on Services Québec’s website to learn more.

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E – Other contractors (hired by the client)

If you decide to do some of the work yourself, or hire other contractors for specific jobs (bricklaying, plumbing, etc.), the coordination of this work may result in administrative procedures that the contractor will include in the cost.

The work performed by you or other contractors you hired cannot be guaranteed by the contractor bound by the present contract.

It would be advisable to write a precise description of this work in an appendix.

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F –Applicable work standards

Please note that by signing the contract, the contractor agrees to carry out the work diligently and professionally in accordance with the regulations in effect for the performance of the work and in accordance with professional standards. You can check the quality of the work at any time without affecting the work as it progresses, and if you wish, seek advice on the matter from a qualified professional.

If the contract is concluded with a general contractor who hires subcontractors, it is the responsibility of the general contractor to ensure that the work performed under contract is carried out in accordance with the regulations and professional standards for contractors holding an appropriate licence from the RBQ.

Most renovation work entails a certain amount of inconvenience in everyday life. It would be advisable to discuss your concerns and expectations with the contractor in this respect.

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G – Safety and maintenance of premises

The contractor must:

  • ensure the safety of the premises
  • keep the premises relatively clean
  • prevent any accumulation of unusable materials or other nuisances
  • protect the work, the property of the client and anything else located near where the work is performed against damages
  • remove debris of construction and clean the premises from the dirt caused by the work once it is done.

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H – Insurance

Before starting the work, the contractor must confirm that he holds an insurance policy with adequate liability coverage.

This insurance policy must cover personal injury or property damage caused by actions taken or omitted by the contractor, his employees, or his agents relating to the performance of this contract.

A contractor’s damage insurance should also protect the value of his property, materials, and equipment.

Finally, you should inform the insurance company of the work taking place in your home.

I – Workplace safety

The contractor must declare in the contract that he complies with:

He must then respect all provisions of these acts and their regulations, as well as issue the required notices at the opening and closing of the work site.

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J – Guarantees

A legal guarantee

Under section 2120This link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window. the Civil Code, the contractor must guarantee the work for one year against poor workmanship that exists at the time of the acceptance of the work, or that is discovered in the year following the acceptance of the work.

This guarantee does not cover apparent poor workmanship and apparent defects that have not been disclosed by the client at the moment he accepts the work.

The contractor is also required to comply with the legal guarantee specified in the Civil Code (section 2118This link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window.) for the loss of the work resulting from defective design, defective construction, poor performance of the work, or defective soil occurring within 5 years following the completion of the work.

A contractor who provides goods must ensure that they are free from latent defects which would render them unfit for their intended use.

Finally, a contractor who concludes a contract with a consumer must comply with the legal safeguards provided for in the Consumer Protection ActThis link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window. which relates in particular to the use and life of the property.

The conventional guarantee offered by the contractor

The contractor may add a more beneficial conventional guarantee to the legal guarantee of the Civil Code. For example, he may extend the guarantee regarding poor workmanship by 5 years. Read the guarantee very carefully before making a choice.

If the guarantee contract is concluded between a consumer and a merchant, the document stating this guarantee must be clearly written and contain the information required by the Consumer Protection Act (section 45This link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window.).

Guarantee offered by a third party

Some business associations offer guarantee plans that cover renovations.

Before joining a plan offered by a business association, verify with the plan administrators if the entrepreneur has been accredited by the association.

You must also verify precisely what the guarantee plan covers as well as its duration. If you agree to join such a plan, you must also ensure that the contractor has disclosed the work with the guarantee plan administrator.

Some products installed during the work may be guaranteed by the manufacturer for a period greater than that provided for in the Civil Code of Québec. The contractor must give you the documents stating these guarantees.

Whether the guarantees are offered by the contractor or by a third party, it would be preferable to refer to these guarantees by registering them in the contract.

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K – Access to public services

Most renovation projects require access to water and electricity. The contract should specify if the contractor can have access to your utilities, or if he should make alternate arrangements.

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L – Failure by the contractor or client and contract termination

If either party defaults on its contractual obligation, and if the default is major, the other party may terminate the contract if the defaulting party has not fulfilled his obligation to remedy the default within the allotted time frame as stated in the written notice which will have been forwarded to the defaulting party.

He may also, where appropriate, seek damages in compensation for the loss caused by the failure of the other party.

The time frame specified in the written notice to remedy the default should be realistic, but precise.

If the contract is concluded between an entrepreneur (merchant) and a client (consumer), the time frame to remedy the default specified in the written notice shall be sent by the contractor to the client will be 30 days, and the notice must comply with the requirements set out in the Consumer Protection Act.

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M – Unilateral termination of the contract

You may terminate the contract at any time, even if the contractor is not in default. However, you will pay to the contractor, in proportion to the agreed price, the costs and expenses incurred for the realization of the contract, for the value of the work carried out before the end of the contract or before the notice of termination of the contract, and, where applicable, for the value of the goods supplied, when these can be returned to him for use.

As for the contractor, he may unilaterally terminate the contract for a serious reason, and only at an opportune time. The contractor must repay any advances that he has received in excess of what has been earned. 

Each party (contractor and client) will also be liable for any losses that the other may have undergone, and for which proof can be obtained.

For more information, consult sections 2125 to 2129 of the Civil CodeThis link open an external website of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in a new window. regarding termination of contract.

N – Signature of the contract

Both of you must sign the contract. Then, make sure to receive a copy of the contract, signed by both parties.

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