Left High and Dry by the Tradesmen

An average person today is a graduate and is employed who has order and discipline that is enforced in his work place and expects the same in other profession, however there is no order or discipline now with the tradesmen. The equation of supply and demand comes into play when you look at the solutions in hand. There has been a great drive for education in the last decade in this country (thankfully) that has produced so many graduates in the last decade and has also fuelled the rocket speed growth of the IT industry. The growth in the IT industry has also driven the salaries more upward than any other profession in the country and hence the there has been a large number of parents and children alike who aspired to take up these jobs and with the fuelling growth most of them did get these jobs that they aspired. This has led to the children of the tradesmen not taking up the profession that their parents and grand parents did for ages.

Had it not been for the IT industry and education drive most of the younger generation would have followed in their parents footsteps. Additionally the tradesmen job until recently was not well paid due to the excess in supply of these tradesmen. However with the next generation shifting careers and also the existing force falling prey to Alcohol, the only remainder is only the ones who are semi-skilled and also drink little or not so often. There are only a very rare percentage of people who do not have the alcohol habit. The small minority are isolated by the large drinking majority. With the shortage comes lifestyle change (alcohol habit) which they can otherwise do with. There are not too many alcohol de-addiction centres in proportion to the TASMAC shops that have been open in the country, nor is there an initiative from the government and NGOs to address this pressing matter. This however has ruined their lives, reputation and has dragged the poor homebuilder along with them.

The issue with the types of arrangements with the tradesmen is that there is no formal agreement or a written document as to the scope and terms of work which bind them in that relationship. The document even if prepared is not executed as there is a reluctance to sign as there is a fear of what may be in the document that is detrimental to them. Perhaps, an education of the terms in simple language (local language) would help stem the rot. Also, there is no commitment met in terms of time and also work quality is not assured. The work quality does not have a standard at the moment and hence benchmarking becomes almost impossible. ISI works on several items for quality assurance there may well be standards that are not visible, which organizations and associations can work on to create more awareness. The delay factor (caused by tradesmen due to absence, poor time and project management) causes additional costs from the increase in cost of materials to the interest charges that add on the home loan that only adds fuel to existing misery.

The tradesmen have their respective associations who stand guard for them even in the instance of the wrong doing being on the part of the tradesman. The wrongdoing is very hard to establish there is no written document that clearly states the scope of work assigned along with the time frame. The advances that are paid (most cases demanded) on the work in most cases exceed the reasonable limits (>10-15% of the balance work). This means that the poor house builder will have to pay more than the work completed and also continuously put up with the delay and poor quality as the money has already been paid and there is almost no way to recover the money. As the problem compounds when there are more than 1 person in this approach, starting from the mason to the fabricator, the problem becomes so complex that some people go to great extents such as selling the gold in the family, liquidating any insurance policies and also any advance cashment of any retirement funds.

Upon doing all of these activities, it is still not assured that the work will be completed on time. Where there are tight laws for apartment builders, these tradesmen hide under the labour worker blanket and abuse the poor man who builds a simple house. The methods of measurement of work completion is new to the home builder and is exploited by the greedy tradesmen in many instances that further compounds the cost and problem. The tradesmen also has a habit of changing the mode of the oral contract from labour only to labour + material. This causes more agony as the tradesmen receive a handsome commission from the retail hardware shops who encourage this practice for repeat business. There is also theft in some cases that make the pain even more unbearable. The wages that these people earn are far higher than the average office going person and yet they do not file income tax, nor is there a push from the Income Tax department to cover this line of trade. Perhaps, there can be This practice has gone on for far too long without any help for the poor builder from any corner.

Whilst there are several protections for a simple sale transaction such as a sale of a pen or a soft drink, there is almost no protection for someone who is building a house (mostly once in a lifetime) with all the financial resources that he possesses. This is such a shame for the consumer movement who let this rot to continue; instead drastic steps need to be taken up to penalize both the builder and tradesmen when there is a breach of contract. The active steps that need to be taken can be a simple registration that a home builder can do at an association (home builders association) office such as the shareholders association that take up the interests of the shareholders. These offices should have an office in every town so that distance does not become a deterrent for seeking very important help and assistance. This office can help resolve many issues and greatly save money, effort and time for the home builder.

There are instances where the home builder is also at fault where payments are not met on time and also materials and details not provided on time. Perhaps a project coordinator from the association can be made available at a nominal cost based on the building cost and also insurance available for any losses that arise in this work. There can be other consulting services that the association can provide and also a feedback rating system for the tradesmen, suppliers and materials in the local area so that the home builders can plan and engage the right personnel in building their dream house and have some financial resources left over for other commitments in their life. The tradesmen and supplier associations can be consulted and sought for inputs in drafting a solution that will end this uncertainty and agony for the builder. There may be many ways to address this issue, however the consumer association at every town should pioneer this cause and provide an immediate solution before the rats and leaches suck the blood of the poor home builder.