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Contracting and Working With a Home Improvement Contractor

You've done your homework and chosen a dependable, well-recommended, registered contractor. Now it's time to put together a contract and start the job.

IMPORTANT:  If a contractor offers to finance your home improvement project or put you in touch with a finance company, have an attorney or other informed person review the finance agreement before you sign to verify it complies with the state and federal Truth-in-Lending Act. Consumers who think they are entering into a retail installment agreement, may later discover they have placed a second mortgage on their homes.

Contract requirements

The law requires that a written, signed and dated contract be prepared for every home improvement job. The contract holds both you and the contractor accountable for work and payments. Insist on meeting with the contractor to review the contract. Be sure to get a signed and dated copy for your records. Any work changes or modifications made to the contract must be in writing, should be specific, and a copy given to the homeowner.

By law, the contract must include:

  • The contractor's name, address, and Connecticut registration number.
  • The signature of the contractor and the homeowner.
  • The date the contract is signed, and the date by which the homeowner may cancel the transaction (three business days after signing the contract). NOTE: Saturday is a legal business day in Connecticut.
  • The cancellation notice must be near the homeowner’s signature. and must state that you may cancel the transaction at any time prior to midnight on the third business day after entering the contract. They must also provide you with a separate  notice of Customer’s Right to Cancel that explains this right.
  • Work start date and work completion date.
  • The entire agreement between the homeowner and the contractor regarding the work to be done and the price. The contract should include: The quality or brand of materials to be used, who is responsible for cleaning the worksite once work is complete, who will acquire any needed building permits from the town, and a schedule of payments.

Payments

  • We strongly suggest a 3- or 4-part payment schedule that corresponds to the progress of the work. This schedule should be written into the contract and may include tentative dates. This provides the contractor with some money up front, some while work is underway, and final payment only when the work is finished to the homeowner's satisfaction.
  • An up-front payment is reasonable to allow the contractor to acquire needed materials. However, it generally should not represent more than one-third of the entire project. If a contractor asks for all or most of the money as a down payment, it may signal financial trouble. Reconsider signing with this contractor.
  • Never pay in cash and get a receipt for all payments.

Building permits

  • Obtaining the appropriate building permit from your town is a requirement for many jobs and helps ensure your safety before and after the work is completed.
  • Make sure that either you or your contractor apply to your town for all necessary building permits; you can specify in the contract that the contractor will get the building permits.
  • Acquiring the building permit is ultimately the homeowner's responsibility, make sure to verify with the town that the build permit is approved before the work starts.