Remodeling Your Home? Legal Tips From a Construction Lawyer
We’ve all heard the horror stories about home remodels gone wrong: contractors who disappear with the check, or the ones who stick around only to leave the house a wreck. Fortunately, you’re not completely helpless when it comes to preventing catastrophes like these. The following are four basic tip
Make sure your contractor is licensed and insuredSeek out recommendations from people who have had a good experience with their contractor; chances are those contractors will be licensed and insured. In Utah, you can check your contractor's license here. Not only is it illegal for a contractor to work without a license, but he or she must be insured to qualify for one. Using an insured contractor helps ensure that your contractor will be able to pay in the unlikely event of any serious personal injuries or damage to your property. Third, using a licensed contractor is a requirement to access a benefit known as the lien recovery fund, which may protect you from lien claims made your property in the event that your contractor hires subcontractors and fails to pay them.
Read your contract carefullyHaving a written contract regarding your remodel project helps prevent future disputes (and is another requirement to access the Utah lien recovery fund). If your contractor says he or she doesn't have a written contract, you could write your own and have the contractor sign it. At a minimum, a contract should include your name and the contractors name, describe the work the contractor is going to do, establish a price, and be signed. Other terms to consider include work scheduling, how to deal with unexpected problems (if you've ever remodeled or watch a fixer-upper show, you know what I'm talking about), how to handle changes in design, how to handle disputes between you and your contractor, who is responsible for permitting, and any warranties. If your contractor does have a contract, make sure to review it carefully, especially if it is long (because longer contracts may signal that a contractor is shifting more construction risks to you).
Work First, Pay LaterIt is common in the industry for contractors to perform the work first, and receive payment after it is done. Sometimes your contractor may require a materials deposit, which is an item you can negotiate. Whatever arrangements you make, be sure that you have arranged financing for the project before you sign a contract or begin work.