Reminders for Homeowners Planning Storm Repairs
Be sure to hire the right person and understand your contract before you sign
“All too frequently in towns across the state, homeowners have problems after hiring contractors who are not registered or licensed, who don’t perform work up to code, or who leave homeowners with unfinished or shoddy work, Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said. “Please save yourself aggravation and trouble in the future by taking the time today to thoroughly research the job and the contractors that you’re planning to hire.”
Who is a Home Improvement Contractor?
Anyone who performs improvements on residential property (single- or multiple family dwellings of six units or less, condos or co-ops), when the job exceeds $200 and when the cash price of all work performed in one year exceeds $1,000, needs to be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection as a home improvement contractor. In other words, anyone who is fixing damage to your house from a fallen branch or tree most likely needs to be registered. Certain work is not covered by Connecticut Home Improvement Law, including:
Construction of a new home (covered by different laws; see the fact sheet at www.ct.gov/dcp entitled, “What You Need to Know About New Home Construction”
Sale of materials with no arrangements to perform any work or labor
Sale of goods or services for commercial use or resale
Sale of appliances (stoves, washers, etc.) which can be easily removed from the home without material alteration
Work performed by a homeowner on his/her own premises, without pay
Work that requires a separate license, such as plumbing, heating, and electrical
All home improvement contractors working in Connecticut must display their registration number on their contracts and in all advertising. All home improvement salespeople must also be registered. No one may act as a home improvement salesperson for an unregistered contractor and no contractor can employ an unregistered salesperson. Before hiring a home improvement contractor, visit the Department of Consumer Protection’s e-Licensing site at https:www.elicense.ct.gov to verify a license, permit or registration, or to run a roster of licensees.
Avoid Being Rushed into a Contract!
Once you have picked the contractor you want to work with, you’ll most likely be asked to sign a contract. Some contracts are a single sheet of paper, but whether they’re called “Service Agreements” or “Buyer’s Agreements,” you need to read and understand ANY contract before you sign.
Often, consumers are shocked to learn that the simple paper they signed locks them into a binding legal agreement – one that costs more than they expected or that doesn’t meet their needs. Even in these trying times, be sure you fully understand your contract before you sign.
The one or two day delay it may take to carefully review the contract could save you months or even years of headaches down the road, not to mention the financial cost of dealing with the wrong contractor. Keep these important tips in mind:
Sign only when you’re ready, not when you feel “pressured.”
Shop around and ask questions.
Take the time to read and fully understand all parts of any contract or written agreement before signing.
If you still have questions or concerns, seek legal advice.
Home improvement contracts and any subsequent changes must be in writing, must be signed by both you and the Connecticut-registered contractor and/or salesperson, and include:
The contractor’s name, address, and Connecticut Home Improvement registration number;
The date of the transaction, plus both a start and end date for the work; and
Notice of the Buyer’s Right to Cancel within 3 Business Days (Saturday is a legal business day in Connecticut.)
Be sure that any contractor you hire has the appropriate amount of workman’s compensation and liability insurance coverage. Ask for the contractor’s policy number and call their agent to confirm that they are actively covered.
While many contractors offer to acquire the necessary permit for the work they do, ultimately, it’s the homeowner who is responsible for ensuring that building permits are in place. Get to know your town building officials, who can be valuable resources in preventing problems that may arise.
“Local Building Departments want to get the word out to homeowners about using registered contractors, and encourage residents to utilize their local building inspectors for information,” an East Hartford building official said today. The official had recently worked with local police and a Department of Consumer Protection inspector on a home improvement case that resulted in the arrest last week of a contractor for not being properly registered and not performing work up to code.
For more information on protecting yourself in the aftermath of the snow storm and hiring the right contractor, turn to the home improvement pages at www.ct.gov/dcp, and our “Consumer Watch” newsletters, including June’s article: “Looks Like a Very Busy Home Improvement Season!” Consumer Watch is available at www.ct.gov/dcp under “Publications.” You may also contact the Department at its dedicated occupational / home improvement phone line, staffed by experienced investigators and inspectors: (860) 713-6110.