There was a time when a handshake was sufficient to create a binding contract. The person you hired to do a job for you was probably someone you knew personally or personally known by someone you knew. The interrelationships created a sense of personal responsibility to do the right thing and hold up your end of the bargain. Unfortunately, with our growing towns and cities, the personal connection has depleted and the search for a contractor has gone from asking someone in town to searching the internet. Which also brings about the real chance that the person you do decide to hire does not maintain the same sense of moral and contractual responsibility. That’s why creating a solid contract is so important. Now mind you, the agreement you create with a home improvement contractor will not guarantee that there won’t be problems along the way. However, the agreement will help you tell the story to anyone who was not involved in the process, including a court of law. See when you and the contractor agree to certain things, for instance the size of the deck you want built in your back yard, only the two of you are involved in that conversation. If there is no written agreement which spells out what you and the contractor agreed to, then you would have to rely on the honesty of someone you just met to tell the truth. You are in a much better situation if there is something in writing which tells the story “for” you, the contract. Only then can anyone else, that being the court, make sure you get what you bargained for, or at least be compensated for what you didn’t get.
So make sure you tell the story correctly. Don’t be afraid or intimidated in making corrections or adding your own details. When you get a contract agreement from a contractor, look it over. If you don’t understand something in the contract, ask questions. If there is something you want to add or change, then do it. If the contractor won’t agree, then find another contractor. I know process in finding a contractor was a long and draining process. A process that no one wants to go through it twice. But my advice, as I tell all my client’s, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish even with your time. Agreeing to terms in a contract which you know you are not happy with just to save time and energy in looking for another contractor may lead to events that are even more problematic.
One final tip. We all know we don’t know everything. The contract may look good but your just not sure. Well, get a second opinion. If the contract is for something simple, perhaps the advice of an attorney may be overkill. But if you are contracting for a major renovation, with a hefty price tag, why wouldn’t you spend a few extra dollars to have a legal professional look the contract over for you to make sure everything you want is in agreement. Spending that few hundred may save you thousands in the end.
If you are in the process of negotiating a contract agreement and need advice or have encountered problems with a contractor that you need help with, contact our office. Our Long Island attorneys also serve Kings County residents in Brooklyn, residents of Queens, those in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, as well as people in other New York areas.