With the home renovation season upon us, you might be thinking of hiring a contractor. There are many reputable contractors in your community ready to do the work and willing to sign a contract to make sure both parties are satisfied when the job is done, and protected if something goes wrong.

Not all contractors play by the same rules, though, and if you get stung by one of these underground contractors, you could lose everything — your peace of mind, your savings, even your home.

Sound serious? It is. As the owner of the property where the work is taking place, you are legally responsible and liable for any damages or injuries that occur on your property, regardless if someone else is doing the work. If that contractor becomes injured, or causes a life-threatening hazard due to sloppy work, you can be sued. A professional contractor is covered by his own liability insurance.

Without a paper trail — no contract, no warranty, no estimate or invoice — there is absolutely no record that the work was done, who did the work, or that they were even paid.

If you participate in the underground economy, whether as a buyer or a seller, not only are you putting your own safety at risk, you are taking away tax dollars from the health-care system, government pension plans and employment insurance, to name a few.

Evading taxes is unfair to honest taxpayers and it’s illegal. The Canada Revenue Agency has more than 1,000 full-time employees dedicated to catching these underground entrepreneurs, and once they find them, the result can be hefty fines or even jail time.

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