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, be very careful! Have an attorney or some other informed person review the finance agreement before you sign, to verify that it complies with the State and Federal Truth-in-Lending Act. In some cases, consumers who thought they were entering into a retail installment agreement, later discovered they had placed a second mortgage on their homes!
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 sitting down with the contractor to go over everything that goes into the contract, and be sure to get a signed and dated copy. Keep this with your records.
By law, the contract must include:
- The contractor's name, address and Connecticut Registration (HIC) number.
- Four key dates: date the contract is signed, work start date, work completion date, the date by which the homeowner may cancel the transaction.*
- The entire agreement between the owner and the contractor regarding the work to be done and the price**
- *A Notice of the Customer’s Right to Cancel within three business days after signing the contract. The Customer’s Right to Cancel must be attached to and made part of the contract, and must be in duplicate. The Notice included in the contract must be near the customer’s signature and in substantially the following form: “You the buyer may cancel this transaction at any time prior to midnight on the third business day after the date of this transaction. See the attached Customer’s Right to Cancel for an explanation of this right.” NOTE: Saturday is a legal business day in Connecticut.
- The signature of the contractor and the homeowner, and the date each signed the contract.
- Any work changes or modifications made to the contract as the work proceeds must be marked into the contract and a copy given to the homeowner.
** The description of the work to be done can and should also specify 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.
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, as long as work is proceeding on schedule. 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 consumer'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 or so 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. sign with. Never pay in cash and get a receipt for all payments.
Obtaining the appropriate building permit from your town is not only a requirement for many jobs, but helps to ensure your safety before and after the work is completed. The building permit ultimately the homeowner's responsibility, but you can specify in the contract that the contractor will get the building permits. Make sure that either you or your contractor apply to your town for all necessary building permits.
Working with your contractor
Now that you've got this important relationship underway, follow the following suggestions to help keep things running smoothly:
- Communicate your objectives and expectations from the very start.
- Provide the necessary money -- pay promptly.
- Provide access to the worksite.
- Once you have chosen a contractor you trust, allow him/her to lead.
- Be available for meetings.
- Make decisions promptly.
- Accept fair and reasonable standards of performance. Perfection is rare in construction.
- Be prepared for unpredictable conditions. C contractors don't control the weather.
- Be responsible for your own actions which will affect the job.
- Treat the contractor and crew the way you would like to be treated.