When beginning a home improvement project, a lot can go wrong. There are many moving parts in the process, from choosing a contractor to ensuring they do what they are supposed to do. This makes it much more important for you as a homeowner and consumer to know your rights and be able to exercise them effectively when hiring someone.
The following laws will help you stay safe and protected while your renovations occur.
Consumer Protection Laws
These measures protect both homeowners and contractors from unscrupulous behavior by creating home improvement contracting work standards. They set out rules on fair dealings with consumers and disclosure requirements regarding any business names and contact information used by the contractor, including their license number.
Some states even require an estimate or proposal containing certain price information before work begins. It may also include a statement disclosing the contractor’s intention not to file a bond or any required insurance.
There Is No Such Thing as Standard Licensing in the Home Improvement Industry
Although some states give licenses only to roofers, electricians, plumbers, and other professionals who work on homes primarily from outside, none of these licenses exist at the federal level. This means that anyone can call themselves a contractor and perform work on your home.
You should check the home builders credentials before hiring anyone to ensure they are qualified to do the job you need to be done, but it is generally accepted that there is no one governing body for all contractors in this industry.
Most Projects Fall Under the Heading of Drywall Repair/Replacement During a Remodel
It is not uncommon for customers to ask for something very specific when contacting a contractor, such as wanting new cabinets installed or maybe even a complete bathroom redo.
Unfortunately, these kinds of requests usually result in coming up with an estimate that is much larger than anticipated because the condition of the walls behind the new cabinets needs reinforcement and will require drywall repair, and installing a completely new bathroom will require tearing down walls, taking up floors, and installing new plumbing.
The largest portion of the customer’s budget is usually related to drywall repair/replacement costs, so it is important to consider this carefully before starting any remodeling project.
A Contract Should Spell Out All Terms Before Any Work Begins
When hiring a contractor from a heating oil company or any other service provider for your home improvement project, you should receive a written contract that clearly states what work will be performed by the contractor and exactly how much this work will cost.
Everything from the base price to options such as different flooring or cabinets must be spelled out before any work begins because changes like these could significantly increase your final bill. Additions or alterations are made without changing whatever contract is in place.
Inspect Your Home and Property With a Fine-Tooth Comb Before Hiring a Contractor for an Exterior Project
When the goal is to make major renovations outside of your home, you should take special care to thoroughly inspect your house and property before even considering hiring services from contractors like wood fence contractors. Roofing contractors are especially used to this kind of inspection because it is not uncommon for roofers to come across serious damage or defects during an inspection that their customers are completely unaware of.
The last thing you want to happen is find out after your contract has been signed that, for example, there are rotting rafters behind the brick veneer on the front of your house that need replacing, or maybe there was some water damage that led to termite infestation under the floorboards. This will increase your final bill, and you will need to contact your contractor right away, so it is best to find these issues beforehand and then plan accordingly.
Home Improvement Contractor Should Not Charge Extra Even if Circumstances Beyond Their Control Arise
Suppose a problem arises during a project out of the contractor’s control, such as an unanticipated crack in a ceramic tile surface. In that case, they should not automatically tack on additional charges.
In this kind of situation, the issue with the tile is not related to poor workmanship or faulty installation by the contractor. Instead, it was bad luck when selecting materials from suppliers or laying them down.
A good rule of thumb here would be to consider how common this type of event is in the contractor’s field of work and then compare it to how much additional time or effort they will require. If you feel that the added costs are still very high, discuss things with your contractor to see if they can reduce their rates without sacrificing too much quality.
A Client Has the Right to Have a Project Completed Promptly
When hiring any home improvement contractor for your home, you should expect them to complete all tasks within a reasonable period. This means that if ceilings need painting, it is best not to hire someone who claims that there may be an eight-week wait before they can start. Instead, stick with contractors who are much more efficient. If your contractor does take too long to complete their work, you have the right to find another one who will be able to dedicate themselves fully to your project.
A Home Improvement Contractor Should Always Allow You to Choose Between Flat Rates and an Hourly Rate
Whether or not to pay an hourly rate or opt for a flat rate should ultimately be yours as the client. Some benefits are available exclusively when using an hourly payment method with your home improvement contractors.
For example, if you do not know exactly what kind of materials will be used during a project, paying per hour gives you the flexibility needed in situations. It also makes sense if your contractor’s hourly rate is significantly lower than what you would pay if hiring them by the project.
A Home Improvement Contractor Should Never Charge for Time Spent on Planning, Traveling to Your Home, or Performing Other Necessary Tasks
The majority of contractors, for instance, wood fence contractors who work in the home improvement sector, will be open about charging an hourly rate for their services. However, some may take advantage of this fact by adding meters to their vehicles or time spent on preparing records, etc., as part of the final bill.
These types of fees should not apply to you. If your wood fence company tries to charge you extra funds because they had to drive a longer distance to get to your house, make sure that you make it clear that all associated travel costs are included in the original estimate.
A Home Improvement Contractor Should Always Give You an Itemized List of Supplies and Materials Needed for Your Project Before Any Work Begins
Before starting any major projects involving renovations or other structural changes and repairs like garage door repair to your home, ensure that you first receive a clear list from your contractor detailing all items they will need to complete their end of the bargain. If you are not provided with this list beforehand, be wary of their motives.
Once all is said and done, additional charges may be tacked onto the final bill. Also, if possible, choose contractors who allow clients to supply them with many of the necessary materials so you can save money on these kinds of initial costs.
A Home Improvement Contractor Should Not Perform Additional Work Without Your Approval
You should always be kept in the loop regarding any extra projects like installing shades performed by your contractor, even if they are a part of the original contract. This gives you a better idea of how much a job will end up costing in total, but it also helps you avoid the possibility of getting overcharged for what was originally agreed upon ahead of time.
This can save both sides from wasting valuable time and money on unnecessary issues that could ultimately be avoided. Do not let yourself get taken advantage of. Make sure you are always aware of everything regarding your project.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act
This protects an individual from being wrongfully denied credit due to false information found in their credit reports. In other words, it is against federal law for contractors to run a credit check without permission. The Acts apply to those who take adverse action based on the report, such as denying employment or insurance or approving them conditionally due to an unfavorable report. An individual can also be charged with a misdemeanor if they knowingly report false information, which is later relied upon by another party.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
As a for-profit company, your contractor may hire a collection agency to collect the debt from you if it is owed after the contracted services have been performed. The FDCPA prevents those agencies from practices that are considered illegal or abusive regarding collecting debts.
Collection agencies cannot impersonate an officer of the law or falsely threaten legal action, and they cannot make false claims about what is owed. They also must properly identify themselves as a debt collector and provide proof of who owns the account they are trying to collect before contacting individuals at their homes or workplaces.
Finally, all attempts at reaching someone by phone must stop once requested verbally or in writing. In the future with contacting the debtor after such a request is forbidden.
The Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
This prohibits contractors from making any unfair decisions regarding payment or services. A common example would be if your carpet repair contractor accepts partial payment for incomplete work and then refuses to complete the task or vice versa.
Accepting full payment before completing all aspects of the adhesion contract’s job description. Even if your contract does not state this protection, it is typically implied.
The Contractor Is Responsible for Their Tools When You Hire Them
If you think about it, when you hire a contractor for any service, they are typically responsible for their tools, supplies, equipment, etc. This holds for the home improvement industry as well. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) made it clear that subcontractors are responsible for the tools they need to do their jobs.
Under this ruling, if a tool is damaged or removed from your property by an unauthorized person using the intent to harm others in the area or damage the property itself, you could potentially hold liable anyone who failed to keep proper care of their tools and equipment.
Think of it like when you take your car into a mechanic for transmission repair. You would not be liable to provide your mechanic with the materials to complete the job, just as home improvement contractors must provide their own for their jobs.
Contractors Are Required by Law to Provide Their Employees With Necessary Personal Protective Equipment
Before beginning work, employers, for instance, working for water damage companies must purchase any necessary PPE or face penalties if they do not comply. This means purchasing hardhats, goggles/glasses, gloves, high-visibility vests, steel-toed boots, and other protective equipment. Employers are also required to provide these items at no cost to workers, including subcontractors.
A contractor may be fined for withholding or declining to buy necessary PPE. Contact them immediately if you hire a home improvement subcontractor who forgets their hardhat or gloves. If they do not, you can either purchase it yourself or fire them if that is possible.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
Some states have extended portions of protections afforded under this Act which governs warranties on consumer products to home improvement contracts. This is a Federal law that, in part, requires contractors to provide a mandatory warranty on labor for one year following the work’s completion.
A separate warranty may also be provided for materials. It also places limits on disclaimers or modifications of these warranties, prohibits asking you to waive your rights under the Act, prohibits requiring that legal disputes be handled by binding arbitration, and establishes disclosure requirements governing how much time you have to return defective merchandise without penalty before it becomes a final sale.
When you hire a professional such as a cooling services contractor to work on your home, you enter a legal contract. A home improvement contract is a legal agreement between you and your contractor. This contract has to have certain features, provide specific information, meet required conditions, and cover the responsibilities of each party. Both parties must understand what they agree to and abide by certain laws.