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Construction Programs & Results Inc

We Like to See The Good Guys Win!

Should the Government Be Pricing Your Jobs?

by Michael Stone

Well, everyone else seems to think they know what you should be charging for your work and now the bureaucrats are doing it.

A building inspector in a city in Ontario, Canada has gone out of his way to tell two different home owners that their contractor is charging too much for his work. One of those jobs was priced at $14,000 – the inspector told the homeowner the entire job shouldn't have cost more than $6,000. He also told the owners that they should have been given a complete itemization of all the labor and materials on their job before they signed a contract.


No one can or should be telling you what the price of your jobs should be. You need to calculate a fair, accurate price for your work, based on the specifications for the job and your overhead and profit needs. It isn't the job of a government employee to set prices for your work – and bureaucrats need to mind their own business, not yours. I'll make a bet that inspector is a former contractor who went bankrupt because he didn't charge enough for his work. Now he wants to help every other business owner go bankrupt as well.

If you do business in Canada, you might be able to help your fellow contractor. I don't know the Canadian laws well enough to know his chances of winning, but if enough contractors got together from Ontario and Quebec and backed this contractor by writing letters, making phone calls, visiting their elected officials, it might make a difference.

If you do business in the U.S., you need to know that businesses on the Canadian side of the border face far more liberal or social influences than we have here in the states. There are cities in Quebec, for instance, that require union workers on all new home projects. The general contractor has no choice in that matter. Since most of our readers are in the U.S., why am I telling you this? Because it's just a matter of time before some inspector here in the US tries to pull this little number on one of you.

Keep an eye on what's happening. If you hear or see rules or regulations coming down the pike that prevent you from being able to operate your business profitably, say something. It won't be easy – but left alone, bureaucrats will keep adding rules and regulations to the pie until it's considered appropriate to have inspectors dictating how you run your business.


I had the opportunity to speak with the contractor in question and unfortunately he put himself in the hot seat by failing to meet some important legal contract-drafting requirements AND by taking on City Hall. I think he will get through the problems as he is reputable, but the legal and business-loss costs for his errors are truly immense. I won't add to his problems by identifying him publicly in any story, however.

Contractors should be reminded, however, not to shortcut important things like the legal documentation and relevant local rules. Sometimes carelessness can be extremely costly.

That building inspector crossed the line. Plain & Simple. His job is to inspect that the project is built to code. That is it. His "opinion" on what a job "should" cost is not relevant to his job. It is difficult enough dealing with the brother-in-law, uncle, father, friend, etc. of a client who feels compelled to tell clients what the job should cost now I have to worry about a building inspector pulling this crap? Actually, I don't really worry about it but it does burn me up to hear that this stuff happens.

Adam Zengel (not verified) /

That contractor should contact his local NARI or NAHB organization for help, and information about joining either or both of these fine groups. They have relationships with the local building departments as well as local, state and national elected officials. The inspector was clearly out of line, and should be reprimanded. I suspect that the local building officials do not know what this inspector is doing.


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