A home improvement contract is a type of agreement that is formed between homeowners and a home development or construction business. In general, these contracts are typically used to cover different renovation projects around the house, such as attaching an outdoor deck, building a patio, or adding another floor to a home.
Regardless of the size of a housing project, a home improvement contract is almost always required to ensure the parties understand the obligations of their agreement and can execute them properly. Home improvement contracts are also essential for housing projects because they tend to need to be completed within a certain time frame and usually within a strict budget.
Some examples of home projects that are often the subject of a home improvement contract include when:
- Repairing an old or broken structure within the home (e.g., a staircase);
- Installing new items in a home, such as blinds, windows, doors, eaves, flooring, etc.;
- Adding a second story to a house;
- Tearing down walls to create a bigger room or larger area (e.g., taking down a wall that separates a kitchen and a dining room to condense it from two rooms to one large space).
- Renovating particular rooms like adding a handicap shower or a brand new bathroom;
- Changing the layout of a room (e.g., installing new cabinets in a kitchen or rearranging kitchen appliances like the stove or a counter);
- Making changes to the landscape (e.g., garden, driveway, yard, etc.); and
- Building outdoor structures, such as a spa or swimming pool.
Nearly all kinds of home improvement projects and their parties will gain some advantage by drafting and signing a formal contract before starting the work. Home development contracts are particularly common in situations where a homeowner has not previously worked with the company or business hired to do the job.
In addition, a home development contract may be useful to have for all parties involved in the home project. This is because it serves as a written record of the parties’ original intentions in the event that there is a dispute over the work done in the future.
Thus, if you are planning to upgrade some features of your home, you should consider hiring a local home improvement contracts lawyer. They can help you draft or review a home improvement contract on your behalf before a business begins construction on your home.
What Does a Home Improvement Contract Typically Address?
All contracts must contain certain elements to be found legally enforceable. This usually requires adhering to both state and local guidelines concerning how to form a valid contract. In general, a home improvement contract must be in writing, signed by all relevant parties, provide a basic description of what the contract is for, set the length of the contract (e.g., start and end dates), and include an estimate of how much the total project will cost.
Depending on the jurisdiction, the law may list additional requirements, such as specific contract clauses. Some other important details that are typically part of a home improvement contract include:
- The name and contact information of the parties to the contract (e.g., the homeowner and home development company);
- The individual costs to complete the project, such as the price of materials used, the labor itself, and any additional potential costs;
- A set dollar amount that indicates the maximum budget limit to complete the project;
- If the project is done in stages, then the deadlines for each stage;
- A clause that addresses assignment or transfers of the contract to another party (e.g., a contractor delegates the work or assigns the contract to a subcontractor);
- A payment schedule if the contract is not going to be paid in full at the end of the project;
- Warranty provisions (if any) from the business doing the work;
- An explanation of how the contract may be cancelled; and
- Instructions for how to handle legal disputes that arise (e.g., arbitration clauses, where to file a lawsuit, etc.).
Additionally, some home improvement contracts may also include a “no litigation” clause. This usually states that the parties must agree to resolve disputes over the contract or the work done through negotiations or other alternative resolution options (e.g., mediations).
What if a Home Improvement Contract is Violated?
In the event that a contract for home improvement is violated or breached, a non-breaching party will typically be able to recover a monetary damages award based on any economic losses suffered as a result of the breaching party’s actions.
In most cases, a home improvement contract lawsuit will arise when the construction company hired to do the project breaches the contract by either not finishing the project on time or by only doing half of the work required to complete the project.
Depending on the jurisdiction, the law may allow a non-breaching party to recover the amount necessary to hire a new construction business to complete the project. Alternatively, they may be able to get damages caused by any timing delays or errors.
What is Home Improvement Contract Fraud?
There are some instances when a home improvement contract may serve as the subject of a fraudulent contract or can be used to achieve home improvement contract fraud. An example of such a scenario is when a construction company commits fraud, deceit, or misrepresents facts in some manner that is related to the contract.
This can occur when a construction company lies about the quality of the materials used, charges too much to finish a project, or continues to extend the deadlines for completion in order to charge more (e.g., completes the work slower than most construction standards).
In other cases, the fraud may be committed in connection with the company itself or its workers. For example, a home improvement company may be liable for fraud if they misrepresent their credentials, licensing, or experience, which then causes damage to the person hiring them. When this happens, state and local laws will dictate what can be done about the fraudulent party.
A homeowner who believes they are a victim of home improvement contract fraud should contact a home improvement contract attorney immediately for further legal advice. A homeowner may also want to consider retaining a home improvement contract attorney prior to the work as a preventative measure.
A home improvement contract attorney can help prevent this type of fraud by researching a construction company beforehand, drafting a contract that has serious consequences if such an instance of fraud occurs, and by recommending a certified company to the homeowner if fraud is discovered while in the middle of completing a home improvement project.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help With a Home Improvement Contract?
A home improvement contract can be a very useful legal document when it comes to tackling various kinds of home projects. As previously mentioned, these contracts help to keep both parties legally accountable by serving as a written record of the terms of the agreement and providing deadlines and prices for each step of the project.
However, a home improvement contract will only provide such benefits if they are written in clear language and comply with all of the legal requirements to be found valid. In order to ensure your home improvement contract is valid and will protect you from losses, it may be in your best interest to work with a qualified home improvement contracts lawyer.
Alternatively, you may also want to consider hiring a local contract lawyer instead. An experienced real estate lawyer will be able to handle disputes that arise over construction issues, can assess your options for legal recourse, and can provide representation in court on the matter if necessary.