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Consumers Guidance regarding Hiring a Builder launched by the OFT.

The Office of Fair Trading has issued a consumer guidance note highlighting some of the important considerations one should keep in mind when hiring a builder to carry out small building works or refurbishments. 

This is part of their 2022 Consumer Awareness Programme aimed at assisting local consumers when dealing with businesses. This guidance document specifically focuses on dealings with builders (local or foreign) in relation to small works or refurbishments which are often negotiated and agreed informally without the formation of properly written contracts. 

It is often the case that issues arise in works of this nature. The Office of Fair Trading has reportedly received many complaints of unlicenced and unregistered non-Gibraltarian businesses providing a sub-standard level of service (often whilst undercutting local businesses). In such situations there is often very little that can be done to rectify the issue or recover any losses you may have suffered. Read the guidance note to find some tips on how to help prevent any potential issues when hiring a builder for your next home renovation!

For any concern relating to contracting builders or dispute in relation to your property, please do contact us on +350 20079000.

Jesse Monteverde, Associate at Hassans International Law Firm Limited, jesse.monteverde@hassans.gi 


Consumer Guidance Hiring a Builder

As part of its 2022 Consumer Awareness Programme, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is issuing guidance with practical information to assist local consumers when contracting with a builder for small building works or refurbishments. These works often run into the many thousands of pounds and can cause severe stress and financial loss for consumers.

The small building works and refurbishments sector locally is generally informal and this culture can give rise to issues during or after works are carried out. Without the formation of proper written contracts, it is hard to establish what was agreed with builders and this leads to discrepancies with expectations.

The OFT also receives complaints in relation to unlicensed and unregistered non-Gibraltarian workers carrying out sub-standard works locally. They can often undercut prices from well-established and trustworthy businesses, however when things go wrong there is often little that can be done to rectify the issues or recover consumers’ losses.

Common complaints received by the OFT relating to home improvement contracts, concerning, but not limited to, breach of contracts and bad workmanship have been used to compile this guidance. 

This guidance will focus on:

  • Finding the Right Builder
  • Getting Quotes from Builders
  • Contracts and Payments
  • Check list before going ahead with the works

Finding the Right Builder

When looking for a builder, some background research will help you make the right choice. Note that good builders are often in demand and there is a lot of work for them in Gibraltar. It may therefore take some time before they can make themselves available to you. It may nevertheless be worth waiting rather than rushing into a contract with a business who may not have good credentials. You may therefore wish to take the following points into consideration:

• Ask friends and family for recommendations. Speak to those who have had similar works done and ask them about any problems they experienced;

• Ask to see the works carried out by a builder for other clients and scrutinise these to see if you would be happy with the same quality workmanship;

• Check the business is well established in Gibraltar. Ideally it should have a physical local address and has been trading in Gibraltar for some time. Be wary if the business just gives you a mobile number;

• Check that the business holds an up to date Business Licence that covers the area of work they will be conducting for you. This applies to any foreign businesses that will be carrying out works for you locally. (Ask them for a copy of their Business Licence or conduct a search at the OFT for £5.00). This will go some way to ensure you are contracting with a properly formed and accountable businesses in case things go wrong;

• Check the builders have appropriate qualifications or experience for the works to be carried out. They should be able to show you a portfolio of previous works they have conducted to ensure competency with the works they will be undertaking for you;

• If the builder will be conducting electrical works for you, check that they have the necessary certification from the Gibraltar Electricity Authority. An unqualified electrician is not only dangerous, but it may require you to engage with a qualified electrician in the future to get the works approved;

• Check the business has appropriate insurance for the works to be conducted. If a business is not properly established it may invalidate any insurance, including your own household insurance;

• A good builder should be able to give you options, solutions and advice on your proposed works.

Getting Quotes from Builders

As Gibraltar is a small community we often have a level of personal relationship with the businesses we engage with. As a consequence, we may at times compromise the fundamentals of forming a solid contract that offers appropriate protections to both parties. It is therefore important that your contract with the builder is based on an appropriate and accurate quote or estimate irrespective of the level of relationship you have with them. This will help reduce problems in the future.

The OFT has dealt with numerous disputes where WhatsApp has been the only means of written communication between the parties. As a result, it is hard to establish what exactly was agreed between them. We therefore recommend that you consider the following:

• Ask your chosen builder to give you a written quotation itemising all of the work which they are going to carry out. It is preferable to have a firm price rather than an estimate as it will give you certainty.

• Ensure that the full scope of works you require, including cost of materials, scaffolding, disposal of rubble, ‘making good’ etc. (no matter how small), are set out in writing otherwise these can be disputed as not included in the price in the future and may lead to further unexpected expenses. Query any expenses that you do not understand;

• Whatever the size or nature of the job, obtain more than 1 quote or estimate (preferably 3) from different businesses;

• An accurate quote or estimate can usually only be provided with a visit to your property, so be wary of any pricing provided without an organised visit first. Use the visit to know more about the people who’ll be spending days, weeks or even months in your property;

• Take time to carefully consider your options. A reputable business would never pressurise you into a contract;

• Be wary of requests to pay for the works in Euros. You will be susceptible to changes in exchange rate and such requests could indicate that the builder is not adequately established, licensed and/or registered in Gibraltar;

• You may need permission from the Department of Town Planning & Building Control for the works you want to carry out. Be clear as to who will deal with any permissions required. If you already have plans or drawings with town planning and/or building control approval, supply these to the builders so they can prepare the quotes accurately. For more information about the Department of Town Planning & Building Control’s requirements visit their website. (https://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/town-planning)

• The cheapest estimate/quote may not necessarily be the best. If an estimate/quote from one builder is considerably cheaper than others provided, ask about the disparity in pricing. Think about whether there is a misunderstanding about the nature of the works to be carried out or if the quality of works is being compromised as a result of the low price;

• Make sure that estimates/quotes indicate the time for completion of works. This information should also be included in the contract. If completion by a certain date is of the essence, make sure this is included in the contract;

Contracts and Payments

When you appoint the services of a building contractor you are entering into a legally binding contract with them, even when there is no signed written contract. The OFT would nevertheless strongly recommend that any contracts are provided in writing (even if it’s by e-mail) so there is no room for ambiguity and as such mitigate any potential problems. Do however note that you will be legally bound by whatever is stipulated in the contract.

The OFT has noted that many communications between businesses and consumers are now conducted by WhatsApp and other social media platforms. It is therefore important that these messages are not deleted inadvertently and that the final agreement / contract is sent by email or other written form.

The OFT recommends that the following points are taken into consideration before entering into a contract with a builder:

  • It is automatically implied in all contracts that the business owes you, the client, a duty of care and that works done will be free from defects or hindrance for a reasonable period of time. This does not need to be in writing as it is a right afforded to you in law;
  • Any guarantees offered by the builder should be offered to you in writing as part of the contract;
  • Make sure the contract clearly sets out who is responsible for the management and c payment of any materials and any subcontractors that may be required;
  • Agree on the payment arrangements before the works start and make sure these are stipulated in the contract. It is common for a builder to ask you for interim payments as the job progresses. If this is the case, you may want to negotiate and introduce some form of retention of monies to safeguard your position in the event that works are not completed adequately. This could be a certain percentage of interim payments, that is paid upon completion if the works have been effected as per contract. The OFT recommends that you never pay the whole amount up front;
  • Insist on a receipt for every payment you make and/or avoid paying in cash;
  • Although it is expected within any contract that the job is to be completed within a reasonable amount of time, it is important that a completion date is agreed and stipulated in the contract. When time is of the essence, consider introducing penalties for every week that the works being carried out are delayed without reasonable cause.

Check list before going ahead with the works

  • Is the business well established locally and does the business hold an appropriate business licence? 
  • Can they be reached in case of a problem?
  • Have you checked their competency for the works they are to conduct? 
  • Do they have appropriate insurance? 
  • Do you have a written contract with them that includes a breakdown of works and costs, payment schedule and completion date? 
  • Do you need approval for the works from the Department of Town Planning & Building Control? 

Contact us 

We hope the above is of assistance. Please contact the OFT’s Consumer Protection Team if you: 

  • have any queries; 
  • have encountered any problems; and 
  • feel that we have omitted anything important from this guidance. 

Email: consumer.protection@gibraltar.gov.gi 

Tel: 20071700 

WhatsApp: 56002998 

Web: www.oft.gov.gi


Home Must Haves

Words by Kathleen North

The reasons we choose particular properties are varied, usually practical and frequently based on an emotional feeling about the property.

A privately positioned garden, central location or a garage are all essential requirements for some people.  

For others, the vibe a potential home emits is incredibly important. A house may be aesthetically appealing but if it does not feel welcoming or you cannot envisage living in that space – no amount of bedrooms or south facing garden will persuade you to live there.

Do our preferences and priorities change  over time? Almost certainly but at the moment of viewing a possible home, we have to be led by the life we are leading and those we are sharing it with at that particular time.

Honesty is also crucial when choosing a home. Your friends maybe avid gardeners but if you have little interest in gardening and no younger children to consider, perhaps it doesn’t need to be a  high on your must-have list.

A sizeable property with several rooms may seem the height of prosperity but if you are living alone or just two of you, are multiple rooms really necessary? More cleaning and maintenance involved as well as heating them during the colder months. At the moment, that is an increasing cost we can certainly do without.

Here are a few areas of consideration when choosing your new home:

Neighbourhood

The neighbourhoods that appeal to you will essentially be a matter of personal choice. However, a truly great neighborhood will have a few critical factors in common: accessibility, appearance, and amenities. Your neighborhood may also dictate the size of the lot on which your house is built.

In terms of accessibility, you should look for a neighbourhood near a city’s major transit routes, which has more than one entry point. Commuting to and from work is a big part of many people’s days, so a house with easy access to roads and public transportation will be more desirable than one tucked away and can only be accessed by one route. Shady trees, quality landscaping, and nearby parks or community spaces tend to be desirable.

You can also judge the neighbourhood’s popularity based on how long homes in that area stay on the market; if turnover is quick, you’re not the only one who thinks this is a desirable place to live.3

A great neighbourhood should also include essential amenities such as grocery stores, shops, and restaurants. Most people like to frequent places that are convenient. Research the local public schools even if you don’t have kids or plan to have them. A reputable public school district can boost an area’s home values and figure into the profit you can realize when you want to sell. Also, you’ll want to attract the greatest number of potential buyers. Many buyers target neighborhoods with strong public schools.

Garden or Outside space

The majority of us desire a garden or at least an outside space.  Naturally, a significant size garden is preferable but simply having any amount of outside area brings a feeling of wellbeing and calm.  We are not all gardeners and for some, maintaining a garden is extremely challenging.  However, a small patio with a chair and table can provide hours of outdoor tranquility, not to mention fresh air. It is that sense of moving from indoors to another area that creates a real physical and emotional boost.

Number of Bedrooms

Of course we choose a home that can provide enough bedrooms for the family and any possible additions that are planned. For those who frequently have family and friends to stay, a guest bedroom is a huge plus point. An extra bedroom can be utilised for guests, an office – maybe even a mini gym. Whatever your choice of use, it gives a home a sense of space when other uses and activities can be part of your life.

Windows in bathrooms are not a necessity but provide the ventilation and fresh air that even the best extractor fan cannot offer. After a steamy bath or hot shower, throwing open a window immediately freshens up the room whilst preventing condensation. 

Public Transport links

However beautiful, spacious and inviting your home is, without the ability to travel and visit other locations, an individual may feel isolated. A significant percentage of us drive or have access to a car but there are those who don’t drive and perhaps members of the family who may need to use public transport to attend school or have to travel by bus or train for various reasons. Living in a gorgeous home in a quaint village can be idyllic but being in a geographical position where you cannot get to anywhere else can soon make this particular dream feel a tad tarnished. A home needs to fulfil our living requirements both inside and outside the property.

Storage

The wonders of extra storage cannot be underestimated. Whether you have inbuilt units in your bedrooms or particularly generous cupboard space in the kitchen, having plentiful space is a must-have for many of us. If a property can offer a shed, loft or external storage space, it can considerably increase the desirability of a property. No matter how much decluttering we do, there will always be a necessity for storing everyday items as well as accumulated bits and bobs we cannot bear to get rid of. 

Choosing a new home is an exciting time in our lives but not without it’s challenges. Each of us have our practical, geographical and emotional must-haves when deciding.  It is a positive and logistical move to prioritise what is truly important to you and then you will experience the most satisfying and fulfilling aspects of your new home.


What home insurance covers and what to look for in your policy

Home insurance lets you protect your most valuable asset – your home – and what’s inside. Without it, there’s nothing to shield you and your family from serious financial losses in the event of a fire, flood, theft, or another destructive event.

But, to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing all your valued possessions are insured, you need to know what home insurance covers. When you understand the benefits and what to look for, you can ensure you have the right coverage.

Read on to learn about the benefits of different types of home insurance and what to look for in your coverage.

What Does Home Insurance Cover?

There are typically two main sections on a home insurance policy – buildings cover and home contents cover. Building insurance protects the structure of your property, including the floors, walls, and roof, while contents insurance covers your belongings that aren’t attached to the building, such as furniture, clothing, and art.

When buying home insurance, you can choose a building insurance policy, a content insurance policy, or a packaged policy that includes both.

The Benefits of Home Insurance

You don’t legally have to purchase home insurance, but good coverage comes with benefits you probably don’t want to go without.

Critically, you don’t have to worry about what you would do if something terrible happened. If a fire burns down your house or a burglar steals your valuable possessions, your home insurance will cover some of the costs of rebuilding or recouping your lost items.

Here’s a more detailed look at the benefits of home insurance:

  • You get financial protection for covered events – these usually include storms and flooding, fires, smoke, lightning, theft, falling trees and branches, frost damage to internal pipes, and water or oil leaking from pipes or HVAC systems.
  • You can qualify for a mortgage – you’ll need adequate building insurance before you can get a loan for a new home or investment property.
  • You don’t have to worry about accidents – if your policy includes accidental damage, then spills, breaks, and other reasonable accidents are covered, whether caused by you or a tenant.
  • If a disaster makes your home unlivable, you’ll have somewhere to stay – with alternative accommodation cover, you’ll have a place to stay until your home is repaired or rebuilt. This feature is usually included in building insurance, but not every policy includes it as standard.
  • Your items are safe even when travelling – home contents insurance will protect your belongings in the house if you’re away for less than 30 days. You can also opt for ‘all risks’ cover, which protects personal possessions you’d typically carry on your person – like your iPad, watch, glasses, or handbag.

What Type of Home Insurance Do I Need?

Different people will need different types of home insurance – to help you decide what’s best for you, here are examples of who might need a certain type of coverage.

  • A landlord might get a policy with building insurance to cover the structure only. If they have furniture and other items in the property, they might opt for a policy with building and home contents insurance.
  • A homeowner with a mortgage may have to purchase building insurance to satisfy their lender’s home insurance requirement. The homeowner will also want contents insurance for their clothing, jewellery, and other belongings in the house.
  • A renter doesn’t need building insurance – that’s the landlord’s responsibility. But they might decide to get home contents insurance to protect their belongings. The average home has contents worth over £35,000, so, even as a tenant, it’s a good idea to have coverage in case of a fire, flood, or theft.

What to Look for When Choosing Coverage

Every policy is different, so it’s important to make sure yours includes coverage for the things you want to protect.

A standard building insurance policy will cover the structure, as well as fittings and fixtures that are attached to the structure like showerheads, bathtubs, and lighting fixtures.

But there are other types of cover that may or may not be included. Look for these features in your coverage. If they’re not included but you need them, ask your home insurance company about adding them to your policy.

  • Cover for physical improvements
  • Cover for loss of rent
  • Cover for the structures outside of the home like a shed or pool

Home contents insurance covers personal belongings in your home, but you should find out if there is a limit on individual items to see if you need to purchase extra protection for your high-value possessions. For example, if there’s a £1,000 limit, your £10,000 painting isn’t covered.

How to Get the Best Home Insurance for You

Home insurance is an important investment because it can turn some of life’s most challenging events into manageable experiences.

But the reality is that everyone has unique needs when it comes to protecting their home and belongings. To ensure you’re getting the best policy for you, know what coverage you need and choose a policy that has the features you want.

At Masbro Insurance, we can tailor your coverage to your individual requirements. Learn more about our home insurance and request a quote today.


Welcome to the Jungalow

House plants are must-haves for the new generation of proud plant parents – fact! 

It’s a game of wordplay – jungle meets bungalow – ta-dah! 

You don’t have to actually live in a bungalow to enjoy the benefits of this virtuous style – it works in ‘cozy’ apartments and palatial spaces alike! (Ironically) a popular style in ‘concrete jungles’ where it’s all about bringing some natural goodness in, create an ‘indoor jungle’ with an abundance – as in, you literally can’t have too many, of easy house plants in different sizes, shapes, and textures. And just so you know, it’s absolutely okay to talk to your plants, and even give them names – we’re all guilty as charged! 

But don’t stop there! Jungalow style has a bohemian spirit, so wanderlust away with travel-inspired brights and patterns woven through natural textures, wood grains, and baskets. Pop your leafy lovelies onto a colorful array of DIY plant stands for a carnival riot of personality in any space. 

So if you’ve been waiting for a sign to turn your home into a magic treehouse, this might just be it. Keep reading for all the details on the jungalow trend, and how you can re-create the look in your home.

‘Jungalow’ style defined

One of the reasons we love jungalow style is how exotic it seems, with designs that overflow in lush greenery and colorful bohemian textures. So it might come as a surprise that the trend was actually started in the U.S. by Los Angeles–based designer Justina Blakeney.

Ever since Blakeney first started her Jungalow blog over 10 years ago, there has been a steady stream of design accounts popping up on social media with their take on this whimsical trend.

How to make your home a jungalow dream

Before you rush out to buy every last plant from your local nursery, hear this: Jungalow isn’t just about the greenery; it’s also about the new bohemian aesthetic. 

Get the Look!

In Gibraltar we’re unquely placed to latch on to some of the elements of this white hot trend. Our proximity to Morroco and Spain   gies us access to stunning pots, rugs, and fabrics that will have the Instagram trendsetters green with envy. 

Use plants liberally

We don’t need to be experts in interior design to know that the Jungalow trend isn’t complete without plants – and lots of them, at that. But before you dash out to your neighbourhood nursery and bring home a haul of 20 plants only to have 3/4 of them die on you in the first three weeks, you’ll want to shop smart. 

The key to the jungalow aesthetic is to create an urban sanctuary – meaning you’ll want to have a variety of big leafy plants such as the Monstera Deliciousa or the Fiddle Leaf Figs to give you that lush rainforest feel. But to nail the aesthetic game, you’ll want to layer and stagger your indoor plants to give you a more natural feel of being surrounded by flora.

Parents of furbabies and little ones with itchy hands can opt for hanging plants such as English Ivy, Boston Fern, or Spider Plants. But besides giving you a cosy interior, plants such as Fuchsias or Gardenias can fit just nicely on the balcony and provide you with added privacy from outside views. 

Aside from their bountiful air purifying properties, you don’t necessarily need to build your green oasis with just real plants. Consider placing a few faux plants in the mix around your home to create a more cohesive look. Not to mention, you can add an element by dressing up your plants with colourful ceramic pots or rattan baskets.

Use rattan and woven furniture for the relaxed look

No longer are rattan, woven, and bamboo furniture confined to outdoor porches and gardens as these nifty pieces have hit the trend and are popping inside homes too. While the jungalow aesthetic is packed with eclectic elements, the beauty of rattan furniture is their warm and earthy tones which add a touch of calmness and cosiness to your home.

Those with tropical envy don’t have to limit themselves to Bali-esque chairs. You can instead pick up other rattan furnishings such as coffee tables and sideboard cabinets.

But if you want to start small then kick it off  with mirrors and woven baskets to store your knick-knacks.

The natural tones of rattan furnishings alone can do a number in making your home look flat so it’s important to pair it with colourful textiles and eclectic patterns to create a cohesive look. 

Add interest with colourful statement rugs and cushions

More is more when it comes to nailing the Jungalow trend and when it comes to soft furnishings, you’ll want to opt for vibrant hues and intricate patterns. Persian-style rugs, embroidered tapestries, kilim cushion covers, and even colourful pieces of furniture are surefire ways to nail the Bohemian side of the Jungalow aesthetic. 

A general rule of thumb is to compliment your earthy tones with pops of colour. Think of a bright yellow couch paired with a terracotta rug.

Opt for bold botanical wallpaper

Whether it’s an L-shaped dining nook or an entire section of your living room wall, an accent wall can work wonders to create a certain vibe and instantly transform your space. You can even get creative with wallpaper and choose to incorporate them in smaller spaces such as powder rooms or corridors to give your home some vibrancy.

Use intricate tiles for extra colour and texture

Jungalow isn’t just about styling. You don’t need to cover every inch of your home in botanical prints to achieve the look. Sometimes, it’s as easy as incorporating dimension, colour and texture in your tile choice.

If you’re at the starting line of your home reno journey, consider using browns, oranges, yellows and greens in your choice of tiles to draw that earthy feel in. You don’t have to stop at solid colours either. Pair your greens with patterned tiles for a splash of character.

Use trinkets, antiques and global accents for decor

On the surface, the Jungalow aesthetic can come across as chaotic but part of its appeal is the creative freedom to mix and match things that you love to achieve a quirky aesthetic that reflects your personality.

Start by styling – a.k.a. personalising – your home with knick-knacks, posters, and tapestries that you’ve sourced from your overseas holidays or cross boarder jaunts. And if you’re running out of ideas, you can turn to wicker items such as trinkets and paintings as well as statement ornate mirrors and throws to jazz up your space.

The Jungalow aesthetic is worth experimenting with whether you’re hoping to revamp your existing home or settle on a theme for your new abode. With these six tips in mind, you can easily transform your house into a bohemian oasis that will have others filled with house envy!

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