When planing a major renovation project you will increase your chances for a successful outcome if you hire a contractor with whom you feel comfortable. Make sure the contractor has experience in renovation. Always check references and make every attempt to see current and/or previous work.
When hiring a contractor, insist on a complete written contract. Know exactly what work will be done, the quality of materials that will be used, warranties, timetables, the names of any subcontractors, the total price of the job and the schedule of payments.
Contact your local building inspection department to check for permit and inspection requirements. Be wary if your contractor asks you to get the permit. It could mean the firm is not licensed.
Before selecting a contractor for your next job, contact your local or state consumer agency and Better Business Bureau for information on contractors' licensing or registration requirements and complaint records. Some states require licensees to pass tests for competency and scrutinize licensees for financial solvency. Some states also have a fund to cover some financial losses that result from problems with licensed contractors.
Get at least three written estimates from contractors who have come to your home to evaluate what needs to be done. Be sure the estimates are based on the same work so that you can make meaningful comparisons.
When working with a contractor, don't make final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work and know that subcontractors and suppliers have been paid. State lien laws may allow unpaid subcontractors and/or unpaid suppliers to attach your home.
Pay your contractor by credit card when you can. Under federal and state law, in most cases, you have the right to assert any claims or defenses you have against the seller of the goods or services against the credit card company. This generally means that if the goods or services are defective, you can refuse to pay the credit card company until the problem is corrected.
Be especially cautious if a contractor: comes door-to-door or seeks you out; just happens to have material left over from a recent job; tells you your job will be a "demonstration;" offers you discounts for finding him/her other customers; quotes a price that's out of line with other estimates; pressures you for an immediate decision; offers exceptionally long guarantees; can only be reached by leaving messages with an answering service;
Every year, the National Association of Attorneys General lists home-improvement scams as one of the top-ten consumer problems. Here are a few signs to look out for: Out-of-town or unknown contractors or builders; Contractors who use the term "special introductory offer," "limited-time offer," or who offer any discount to use your house as a "model home"; Contractors who want a contract signed quickly; Contractors who want to discuss the price of the job later; Anyone who uses high-pressure tactics or makes you feel uncomfortable or pressured; A company that demands that you make full payment before the project is finished.
Under the Home Solicitation Sales Act, you have a three-day right to cancel a contract if the contract was signed in your home. During those three days, the contractor is not legally allowed to begin the work, nor are they permitted to deliver construction materials to your home.