What to Know Before Signing a Home Improvement Contract

It is important to be a very careful consumer when it comes to home improvement contractors. For instance, I had a case where my client, an elderly and blind woman, signed a contract and paid $30,000.00 to a home improvement company that disappeared with all of her money! Unfortunately, the company was a scam operation, my client lost her life’s savings and it will take some time in court before my client may ever see her money again however, her mistake will be a lesson to all of you because this article explains how to protect yourself from home improvement fraud.

Before signing any contract with a home improvement company, first ask that company for its license number and check it out with your State or County Consumer Affairs’ Business License Division. Find the License Division on the web or call information and get their number. You want to find out (1) the name and address of the company associated with the license number given to you, (2) if the company is currently licensed and the license expiration date and (3) whether any complaints have been made against that company. The answers to those questions will help you determine if you want to proceed with signing a contract. Make sure both the contractor and the company he works for are licensed to work in your State.

If your going to sign the contract then make sure certain things are included pursuant to your understanding and as required by your State’s Home Improvement Business Law. The contracting company’s name, address and phone number should be printed on the contract. Also, it is important that the contracting company’s home improvement license number is printed on the contract and that it is not different from the number you called and inquired about with Consumer Affairs. Lastly, make sure that all of the work to be performed is listed in the contract and that the approximate start and end dates of work are included. You should put a penalty clause in the contract regarding the contractor’s failure to timely complete the work because contractors are notorious for starting jobs and then leaving for a few days or weeks to do other jobs while you sit and wait in your dismantled kitchen for him to return. Once the contract terms are satisfactory then the contract should be signed by both you and the company’s representative.

An example of a consumer protection law is New York’s General Business Law §771 (“GBL”) requiring all home improvement contracts shall be in writing and contain certain terms of payment, fees for services and materials and start and completion dates, among other terms. GBL §771 is a consumer protection statute to prevent the misunderstandings between contractor had consumer and to protect the consumer from overreaching of the contractor, such as charging for work that was not agreed upon. GBL §771 limits the contractor who disregards its written contract requirements to satisfactorily proving to a court each and every item of work he did and the reasonable value of each item by detailed invoices, timesheets and proof of hourly rates, among other proofs. So, if the contractor who failed to put your home improvement work in writing attempts to collect $20,000.00 from you, he has to prove the value of his services in detail before scaring you into paying an amount you had no idea about. New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and the Home Improvement Act protect the consumer even more by denying the contractor from recovering any monies if he violates any of the consumer laws AND he will pay three times the amount of damages (called treble damages) to the consumer for his failing to obtain proper permits or licenses or any other violation of those laws.

Lastly, protect yourself by not paying 100% upfront. Most contracting companies ask for a deposit upon your signing the contract. I suggest that you put down as little as possible and arrange a payment schedule with the company where you will pay a certain amount as certain work is completed. Of course, always get a receipt, signed by the company and stating the date and amount of any monies paid to the company if you pay anything in cash.

This article is certainly not all inclusive and is intended only as a brief explanation of the legal issue presented. Not all cases are alike and it is strongly recommended that you consult an attorney if you have any questions with respect to any legal matters.

Do It Yourself With These Home Improvement Tips

Some jobs are easy for a properly-prepared homeowner to handle, but some require expert assistance. Read this article to know when to call a professional and when you can do it yourself.

Take the time to make every project your own, instead of simply copying what someone else has done. Including your own personal touch can make any project special.

Use a porch light with a motion sensor to cut down on your electric bill. These types of lights can be manually turned on and the sensitivity can also be adjusted.

Sort your tools by project, in multiple tool boxes. For example, have a toolbox specifically for plumbing projects, containing various pipe fittings, a pipe wrench, and PVC glue. Make another box for your electrical tools and supplies. By doing this, you will be able to locate specific tools whenever you need them.

One way to increase your home’s value is to upgrade your kitchen appliances. Even if you don’t plan to sell, updated appliances are a great idea for an easy improvement to your home.

Gutters clogged with leaves or other debris can cause serious problems with drainage in a rainy season. One of the major causes of leaky basements is clogged storm gutters that re-route rainwater down the siding of a house. Regularly clean your gutters to avoid this problem.

If your walls have built-in alcoves or small niches, you can make these areas pop with accent colors and well-placed wallpaper. If you paint them, you might be able to get by with just a small container of paint instead of a whole gallon.

Any time you are working on any kind of heavier project, then you should be sure to have all the safety gear you need. If you are lifting heavy items, make sure to wear a brace. Helmets are also good if there is a risk of an object falling.

Replacing any wall boards with a water-resistant version is a great upgrade to any kitchen or bathroom make-over. Water-resistant wall board is called “green board” by the construction industry and will stand up to moisture much better than standard wall board. Also, most brands have special treatments to prevent mold growth.

If you are taking on a large project, hire a reputable professional. Professionals like architects, designers and contractors are in business for a reason. The work is complicated, and they are professionals in their field. It can be tempting to attempt to do the work on your own. But giving a professional an opportunity to do the job will give you the peace of mind that it was done properly and securely.

Mounting a coat rack can be a pretty way to display and store your bracelets and necklaces. Never hang your more valuable jewelry, of course, but hanging costume jewelry is a great way to organize it while adding interest to a room. Hanging your jewelry up improves the decor of a room and has the added benefit of keeping it from getting tangled. Make sure that the jewelry you tend to wear the most is still handy.

Are you sick of an old dresser in your bedroom? You don’t need a new dresser, why not makeover the one you have? Not only will it instantly bring an old item back to life, you will have saved all the money you would spend purchasing a replacement. There are a variety of staining options available for any type of furniture.

Before you hire any contractor, make sure they are licensed and bonded in your state. This information can be found online from your state government, or through a telephone call. If a contractor doesn’t have a license, they are probably either incompetent, a scammer, or can’t obtain a license for some reason (convicted criminal, illegal immigrant).

Consider purchasing a combo unit washer/dryer if you reside in a small space. They take up about the same amount of space as your dishwasher. A combo unit washer and dryer do both jobs.

Use wallpaper to decorate a bookcase. Make sure you pick a wallpaper that is visually striking as well as different. Apply the wallpaper to the back of your bookcase and when you stack your books, the design will peek out from behind your books. This can really tie the room together and make a very nice aesthetic look.

Make sure your contractor listens to you. Hiring a contractor that is honest is important, but you need to be aware if they are listening to any of your concerns. Some contractors are highly competent but want to do things their own way, discounting your input. Your contractor should be available to listen to everything you have to say.

Landscaping is a very enduring home improvement. When planning a landscaping project consider using a variety of textures in your design. Adding attractive landscaping to your home will not only increase your home’s value, but it will also make the neighbors jealous.

Almost all supplies that are used in projects concerning home improvement are targets for a thief. You should keep building supplies locked up when you are not working. Building materials can be stored safely inside the home, provided that lockable doors and windows are already installed. If the house is not secured, you have the option of storing them in a lockable storage unit.

Cover your important surfaces, such as floors and counter tops, to give them a layer of protection. This is important if your job consists of painting, demolition or any other project which could damage delicate surfaces. If you protect these surfaces, you can make sure you do not incur any damages that will cost you more to fix. Cover surfaces to protect them from paint splatter and flying debris.

In conclusion, sometimes it is better to call a professional to tackle your home improvement project if you feel you are in over your head. Keep this advice in mind to ensure that you don’t get in over your head and waste a lot of time and money.