November 4, 2009
Things To Know Before You Sign
With the unpredictable economy many people are choosing to invest in their own property rather than buy a new home. Those investments can range from small, do-it-yourself projects, to full-scale remodels. Those of you who chose to hire a contractor to perform home improvements in Connecticut should be sure to do your homework so you do not end up with an expensive disappointment.
Every year hundreds of Connecticut homeowners find out first hand just how frustrating it can be when you hire the wrong home improvement contractor. Complaints range from poor quality work to contractors who fail to complete a job, or worse, who never show up at all after the homeowners have given them a substantial deposit. How can you protect yourself to ensure this does not happen to you? To start, hire a licensed home improvement contractor, get proof of insurance, get a written contract which details the scope of work to be done, completion dates, permit obligations and payment arrangements, and consider consulting an attorney before engaging any contractor for any major renovations to your home. A home improvement license from the state is not an endorsement of a particular contractor, but it can be some insurance for the homeowner.
Under Connecticut state law, home improvement contractors must be licensed by the Department of Consumer Protection. Some trades people who are licensed under other state laws, such as electricians and plumbers, are exempt from the home improvement licensing requirements so long as the only work they are performing is the type for which they are licensed. What a home improvement license does mean, however, is that the contractor pays into a guaranty fund to the state which serves to compensate homeowners who have suffered losses due to a home improvement contractor not competently performing the work he or she was contracted to do. The state will reimburse eligible homeowners up to $15,000.00 from the fund for serious problems encountered with a licensed home improvement contractor. Eligibility requires that the homeowner obtain a judgment against the contractor in either Connecticut small claims court, where the limit is currently $5,000.00, or in a Connecticut Superior Court. The Department of Consumer Protection website allows you to check on the licensing status of a home improvement contractor and lists other facts you should know about eligibility for payments from the fund at www.state.ct.us/dcp.
If you have been victim to a failed home improvement contract you may obtain information about bringing a small claims action at the Connecticut judicial website at www.jud.state.ct.us. If your claim is for significantly more than $5,000.00 you should consult an attorney. The state law with respect to home improvement contracts is quite favorable to homeowners and may allow you to recover your damages, costs, attorney's fees and even punitive damages if the court finds that the contractor engaged in unfair trade practices.
Fortunately there are many reputable home improvement contractors in Connecticut who will provide quality work in a timely manner. The time you spend finding the right contractor will be well worth it. Once your contractor has started a job it is a good idea to keep a journal which notes the progress each day and to take frequent photographs of the work in case anything begins to go wrong. If you do encounter a problem with your contractor you will be armed with a written chronology of events and the knowledge that the law is there to protect you and to help you recover your losses.
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Is the home equity debt you incurred for home improvements eligible for a home mortgage interest deduction? See IRS Publication 936
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