Avoiding disputes with craftsmen

Homeowners often have to deal with work carried out by craftsmen. So that when reaching agreements in a way such that no misunderstandings arise concerning prices and the work to be done, it is necessary to set clear terms and conditions. We show you what's important in this regard.

by Jürg Zulliger

It's common for the owner of a house or a condominium to hire a craftsman to do work in his home: a painter is very welcome to conjure up some new colours on the walls because the new radiance lets you experience a completely new feeling, or you call up a landscaper to trim those lushly thriving showcase gardens just a bit.

When the bill later drops into your letterbox, your joy is sometimes clouded over: time and again misunderstandings arise concerning the agreed price and work to be done. It would be wrong to generalise and accuse every craftsman, building contractor or supplier of bad intentions. The causes of disputes are due primarily to miscommunication.

Unclear terms and conditions

In this regard, Zurich-based construction consultant Christian Keller says, «Craftsmen and those ordering their services often don't speak the same language.» Which layman knows exactly what is meant with joint tape, cover moulding, dimensional measurements and even «supplementary charges based on actual labour and material costs»? The causes of a dispute concerning the price, deadline or defects in construction are frequently vague orders, fuzzy terms and conditions, or simply agreeing to an approximate price. Afterwards you shouldn't wonder if a dispute runs its course.

Awarding contracts too casually

In real life, many people award a contract to craftsmen simply over the telephone or verbally without really knowing themselves exactly what they have ordered. That's amazing when you consider that such contracts can quickly mount up to several thousand or even many tens of thousands of Swiss francs. However, with careful preparation, clear terms and conditions as well as contracts without any ambiguity, you can effectively avoid the most serious problems.

Avoiding disputes