Have you had problems with tradesmen who never showed up, who salted bills or generally messed around? Then you are not alone. This is evidenced by all reports to the General Complaints Board, ARN, and all telephone calls to the country's consumer advisors. Råd & Rön's reporter Pontus Ohlin is one of those who got into trouble. Read and learn from his mistakes.
For six years we have lived in the same condominium, my wife and I. During that time, we have had two major renovations and not unexpectedly, both interventions would break the 100,000 kroner barrier with ease.
First up was the kitchen. It was in the spring of 2007, and we had hired a contractor who, for a borrowed fortune, took care of everything - assembly, carpentry, electricity, rubbing.
Apart from a salty painting bill, a couple of snide comments and some sloppily assembled shelves, we were still quite happy with the result. In any case, I want to remember that they finished the job within a reasonable time.
But never that we wanted to hire them again. And never that we would renovate a bathroom on our own, that was out of the question. This summer, when we in our family would soon be four, and when we had decided to finally launch the project, it had to be another contractor instead. So a company that borrowed money against a box was able to transform our dank old wet room into something pleasant, which we didn't have to be ashamed of.
No luxury, just a few square meters of tolerable standard. This is what we did, and with hindsight – this is what we should have done.
1. The preparations
Did: Contacted the bank and borrowed money. It was early summer, and at the same time we started requisitioning tiles, faucets and other accessories from different suppliers, we requested quotes from three different contractors.
Impressions after three home visits: The first seemed professional but too expensive, the second - which we had been "warmly" recommended - unfortunately did not have time, and the third, two friends... well, they not only gave us a decently low price but also could confidently promised that they would finish the work in time, that is, at least five weeks before our second child was due.
- No problem, we'll fix this!
The matter was settled. Contracts were written, ROT deduction forms were filled out, keys were handed over and we shook hands.
Should have done: Read, no, skimmed the contract before we signed and didn't get distracted by our three-year-old son who was like a pinball, restlessness personified, at the time. Yes, we would of course have arranged a babysitter. From experience, we would also have realized that the concept of deadline can be interpreted a little differently and that we would therefore have agreed on a so-called delay penalty.
Likewise, we would have required references and used the so-called craftsman form, which can be downloaded free of charge from the Consumer Agency's website. Furthermore, we would of course have surfed the net and familiarized ourselves with all possible pitfalls. One of us still works at Råd & Rön!
TIPS: The Consumer Agency's newly published craftsman brochure, which is free to download. Warn the neighbors.
Did: Enjoyed the holiday. It was a warm morning in the middle of July, the sun was shining and we left home for a week's holiday on Gotland, and already on board the ferry we imagined how they tore out and consigned those disgusting old cubic meters to wet room history. That was the agreement, that they would "start the job" half an hour after we had left. Likewise, as they said, we would only face an empty and black hole when we got home. Filled and finished - waiting for the tiles, sink, bathtub and everything else to be put in place. We cheered and the son got ice cream.
Should have done: Waited until the next ferry, because when we got home a week later, they had done nothing more than tape up some protective plastic in the hall outside the bathroom. We would also have required a written work plan and not be satisfied with half a minute of verbal drawing.
TIPS: Request references. The more the merrier.
3 The work
Did: Immediately called the project manager whom the two cronies had appointed, and who started the conversation by howling about an internal misunderstanding: - Well, I had told the guys that... We packed up and went on to the other destination of the holiday. In the car there, of course we began to fear one thing or another, but not that the project manager and his managers would be a bigger topic of conversation than our son and our unborn child until the fall.
Should have done: Stayed at home, had better control of our little castle. Because when we got home again, after another week, they still hadn't made a splash. And the days after we got home we should have checked into a hotel for six weeks. Because it was only then - when the holidays were over, when the boy was about to start kindergarten again - that the work started, three weeks after the agreed start.
TIPS: Agree on who will be responsible for the cleaning before the renovation begins.
4 The project manager
Did: Don't remember all the times we called him, how often he didn't answer and never called back all these weeks. 40, 50, 60, more times?
My wife finally refused to have anything to do with the man. All his excuses, too. If they weren't about illnesses, it was traffic jams or that one of the craftsmen had suddenly had to accompany a relative to the dentist (!).
But most of the time he actually just blamed pure forgetfulness. The fact that his livelihood consisted in part of fixing up an apartment that was dusty, smelled like a cave and also housed a three-year-old and a heavily pregnant woman didn't seem to worry him at all.
Should have done: Pounded his fist on the table, scolded the cronies and demanded a new project manager. But in the precarious position of dependence that we found ourselves in, it was usually no more than a few pleading little beeps that fell on deaf ears. – Sorry, but you, now my wife can actually give birth at any time.
- Well..., yes, but this shouldn't have to take more than a few more days.
TIPS: Request full names and contact information for everyone involved.
Did: Leave the windows open and vacuum regularly. We showered at work, with neighbors and friends, and all censored toilet activities mostly took place in the house's common laundry room. For my wife, who was therefore carrying around an eight to nine month old fetus in her stomach, this existence was of course a pure nightmare.
Should have done: Well, what else could we have done?
TIPS: Plan the renovation in good time and expect setbacks.
6 The inspection
Did: Almost thought he was messing with us, the project manager. There he now stood in our bathroom and let his eyes roam around for a maximum of 15 seconds. – Yes, this looks nice. Are you satisfied?
If I hadn't pointed out that the fan actually sounded like a central vacuum and that the water level in the toilet was only half full, nothing would have happened.
Should have done: Hire an independent surveyor. If you have paid several months' wages for a bathroom, you might as well borrow and pay a few thousand more.
Did: Demanded that they be ready. "Now!" I blushed. The project manager disappeared, and we would not see the smoke of him again. Instead, one of the cronies came. What kind of company did he actually run?
Made a few calls, and from the information I got I was able to calculate, among other things, that the company could hardly have as many employees or employed as they boasted about on their website. And... no, this was probably not a question of any direct chalk-white activity. We let the crony and a hired plumber fix the last faults in tense silence.
Should have done: Been even more assertive. Trumpeted our anger and warned others by hammering down our experiences on every imaginable forum site on the net. Perhaps pure gossip for the authorities. But it never turned out that way. We were probably too tired, too cowardly. And one Sunday in mid-September the bathroom was ready, and three days later our second child was born and then we instantly had other things to think about.
TIPS: Sign an agreement on delay penalty before renovations begin.