If you’ve never hired a home renovation contractor before, you might be wondering, “What documents should I expect to receive from my contractor?” They don’t teach you how to hire a contractor in school — it’s more of a “learn-by-experience” subject. If you know what documents to expect from your contractor ahead of time, you can avoid having to learn from your mistakes. This is especially important because the mistakes that come from not having the correct documentation can be extremely costly.
What documents should I expect? Should I expect a contract?
No matter how small the renovation project is, if someone is doing work on your house, you need a contract. It’s all about protecting your investment if, for some reason, the contractor doesn’t do what they say they’re going to do. Your signature and the contractor’s signature guarantee that you will pay for the work if everything is built correctly.
How specific should I be?
A “scope of work” document is the main part of a home improvement contract. In it, you should be as specific as possible about what you expect the contractor to do. Make sure every detail is considered — from the big things like wall demolition to the little things, like paint colors and light switches.
Should I expect these stipulations?
Most contracts will include a scope of work, schedule estimate, cost estimate, etc. But, listed below are some lesser-known stipulations you could add to the agreement.
- The contractor is responsible for obtaining proper permits and following building codes and zoning regulations.
- The contractor will only work on the project during agreed-upon work hours.
- If the agreed-upon start and finish dates are not adhered to, the homeowner must wait X days before seeking legal action against the contractor.
- Changes in cost due to homeowner-requested change orders must be put in writing and approved by the homeowner.
- If the project is behind schedule, the hard costs can’t change due to increased material prices.
- The homeowner agrees to pay the total cost of materials, and the contractor agrees to purchase the full amount of materials upfront. (This will prevent the final cost from rising if the material cost increases.)
- The homeowner agrees to store all materials on their property for the project’s duration.
- Should a dispute arise between the contractor and the homeowner, an arbitrator will mediate a solution rather than a judge. (An arbitrator is much less expensive than going to court.)
Should I expect proof of license, insurance, and bonding?
Yes, yes, and yes! If your contractor doesn’t automatically have proof of these for you to keep, don’t hesitate to ask for it. Accidents happen, and you could be in for major financial ruin if your contractor doesn’t pay for these safeguards. For more information on the many pitfalls of hiring an unlicensed, uninsured, or unbonded contractor, visit this blog.
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