Home Improvement Contracts

The matter I hate the most?  When a homeowner calls reporting problems with a contractor.

Why?  There is only so much I can do before the cost of my services are going to outweigh the remedies or benefits that are available to the homeowner.  Why is that?  It’s situational.  Sure, I can file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment, but when dealing with an unscrupulous contractor who has left a job incomplete or poorly done, there are rarely any assets to collect against.  In that situation, the homeowner is stuck with not only with an incomplete improvement, but also a legal bill for my services.  I work hard with my clients to make sure they are aware of costs before incurring them.

In Ohio, a homeowner/consumer does have the benefit of the Consumer Sales Practices Act, which allows a party to potentially treble the damages and have the attorney fees paid by the contractor, but again, the issue isn’t determining liability, it is having assets to pursue for payment.

So what can a homeowner do to ensure he doesn’t find himself in a quandary?  It all starts with a written contract.  If you are hiring someone to perform work in your home make sure that there is a written contract which specifies the scope of work that is to be completed by the contractor.  It should identify specifically the work to be performed, and identify, specifically, the materials that are to be used, and who is going to be paying for those materials.  Additionally, the contract should address how and when payment is to be made.  If the scope of work is large, e.g. kitchen renovation, I would not expect payment to be made in-full upfront.  I would expect that when certain tasks are completed, installment payments would become due.  It is also important for the contract to specify whether any permits are required under the municipal building code and who is responsible to obtain the permits.

A smart homeowner will also perform some due diligence on the contractor before entering the contract.  Check and make sure the contractor holds the proper licenses for the work to be completed, ask for the contractor’s license number.  Ask whether the contractor carries insurance, and ask some details.  Who is the carrier?  What is the policy for liability coverage?  Check to see how long the contractor has been in business.  Does the contractor have a brick and mortar office or is this a guy working out of his house?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to check or ask for, but hopefully it provides a good starting point so you can avoid any future mishaps.

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