by Roger Diez
You have decided that it's time to remodel the kitchen or add that extra bedroom. You have gotten bids and selected a home improvement contractor. Now you need to make sure you will be happy with your decision. Call your state Contractors Licensing Board and the Better Business Bureau for any derogatory reports. Get references, and if possible, inspect the work the contractor has done elsewhere. If you are satisfied with what you have seen and heard, the next step is the contract. Your contractor will have his or her own contract, but you have the right to change or add to it, and to have your lawyer review it. A good contract spells out the agreement between the parties and provides both with legal protections.
Make sure your
home improvement contract contains all the details of your
project. Here are some specific items that the contract must
• Contractor's name, address, phone, and contractor's license number
• A detailed description of the work to be done, including materials and any appliances or equipment to be provided and installed
• Start and end dates for the project
• Costs for the project, including any permit fees
• A payment schedule and project milestones at which payments will be made
• Conditions under which the contract may be canceled or modified
• Cleanup and removal of construction debris and scrap
• Contractor's warranty policy and manufacturer's warranty information on any appliances or equipment purchased
•Insurance requirements. The contractor must have liability, workers' compensation, and vehicle insurance
Inevitably there may be issues that arise during the course of the project. You may decide that you want a different color for the appliances. The contractor may tell you that a particular item is no longer available and must be substituted. Weather may interfere with the construction schedule. Whatever the changes, make sure to put them in writing, in a change order that becomes an addendum to the original home improvement contract. As with the original contract, make sure that all items relating to cost, time, payment, and warranty are covered in the change order.
Make sure you read and completely understand the home improvement contract. If you have questions or are uncertain of any terms, have the contractor clarify them in writing. The payment schedule should require no more than 10 percent or $1,000 down, whichever is less. If the contract requires payment in full up-front or payment in cash, those are big red flags, and you may want to consider another contractor.
If the worst should happen, and you are unhappy with the finished project, a well-written home improvement contract gives you the legal standing to pursue remedies through mediation, arbitration, or the courts. Pay particular attention to the terms in the contract pertaining to legal remedies, and if you are not satisfied that you are protected, have the contract changed. There's an old saying: "Good contracts make good business," and nowhere is that more true than in the home improvement arena. Your home is your castle, and a good home improvement contract can make sure that it remains a castle to be proud of.