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The Essential Elements of a Home Improvement Contract

What you should know before signing on the dotted line.

Susan C. Jones, with Fairfax County’s Department of Cable and Consumer Services, says a home-improvement contract should always include the following:

• The business’s name, address, and telephone number.

• The contractor’s license number.

• A clear description of the work to be performed and detailed descriptions of all materials to be used.

• A project’s start and finish date.

• A payment schedule and total price.

• A buyer’s right to cancel—usually within three days—if the contract was signed in the home as well as any cancellation penalty.

• The policy on cleanup and debris removal.

Steven Smitson, executive director of the Maryland Home Improvement Commission, recommends that a contract also lay out the work’s progress: “If I’m doing a major addition, I want to know when the framing will be done, when the plumbing will be done, when the inspections will be called for.”

He says to be wary of signing any contract with an arbitration clause. There can be benefits to arbitration—it can be cheaper and quicker than litigation if problems arise. But, he says, “consumers typically do not do well in arbitration.”

This feature first appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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  • Michaela Stewart

    There should be this estimated time on when the renovation starts and when will it end. The payment at the same time should at least have a date on when you'll be paying the exact total amount for the renovation. Living in a well renovated house as well is worth it.

    awnings Pittsburgh

  • I hope the project will complete to expected date. I am comparing it with Capital Hill Hotel which completes 3.7M first. But this project is big one.

  • I strongly agree that if you hire or work with a professional, you'll be confident with the output.

  • Working with professionals will make the home improvement project more enjoyable and reduce your stress.

  • Renovations always make you come up with a better house so definitely it makes the whole place worth more.

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