Selecting a contractor for a home improvement project is both exciting and fraught with peril. The right one can deliver your dream home, and the wrong one can make your living space a nightmare for an extended period of time. Fortunately, Massachusetts maintains strong consumer protections against the latter in M.G.L. c. 142A, the Home Improvement Contractor statute.
Contractors are required by law to include specific provisions and notices in contracts with consumers. Homeowners should thoroughly investigate the contractor up front and be well-versed in their rights.
Construction consumers should consider some practical tips is selecting their residential construction or home improvement contractor:
(2) Make sure the contractor you choose is registered as a Massachusetts home improvement contractor;
(3) Verify that the construction supervisor the company plans to use to oversee the project day-to-day has a valid construction supervisor’s license; and
(4) Insist upon a complete written contract, signed by both parties, prior to making any deposits or starting any work. At a minimum, your contract should include the following information:
a physical address for the contractor, not just a post office box, along with the name of the salesperson and the construction supervisor for your project;
a start date and a completion date for work, so that you don’t find yourself lower on the contractor’s priority list than other projects soon after making your deposit;
a clear scope of work, including as much detail as possible. If you’ve agreed upon certain brands for hardware or fixtures, be sure those brands appear in the contract; and
specific benchmarks for making progress payments, including the amount for each such payment.
Do not make final payment to your contractor until all of the work is completed to your satisfaction. Be sure to ask for a copy of the contractor’s insurance policy and call the insurance company to verify that it is current.
For substantial projects, have a qualified construction lawyer review your contract prior to signing it. A small investment with a construction attorney can save thousands of dollars and immense frustration by avoiding traps for the unwary hidden in contract documents and by adding appropriate layers of protection into your contract that homeowners are not likely to add on their own.