I have had a number of clients who are both homeowners and contractors ask me to review a contract for home improvements (addition, pool, deck, etc.) and request that I review the contract to make sure it contains all of the necessary information. They are surprised to learn that their contract is woefully deficient and in fact, may not be enforceable unless certain provisions are added. It is particularly important as a contractor to make sure your contract is enforceable by a court of law if you get stiffed for the final bill.
Under the Connecticut Home Improvement Act, all home improvement contracts must comply with nine (9) requirements in order to be enforceable. Court cases have ruled that failure to include some of the lesser important provisions will not render a home improvement contract unenforceable, but it is still a good idea to include all of these provisions.
The first statutory requirement is that the home improvement contract must be in writing and include the scope of services. Therefore, if you are a contractor, it is a good idea to take the time and have a standard written contract to use with clients and have it executed before you start work (although the scope of work will change). If you do not, it may be very difficult to enforce your agreement.
The contract must also be signed by the both the contractor and homeowner to be enforceable. This is a little bit different than standard contract law which only requires the signature of the party you are trying to enforce the contract against. The contract must also contain the company name of the contractor and registration number. The registration number ensures that the contractor is registered.
The contract must also contain a start date and completion date. Some contracts only include start dates and fail to include completion dates. This is a mistake. As a contractor, you want to include an estimated completion date. If you do not, and you do not get paid, the home owner may argue that it is not enforceable because the contract does not comply with law. On a related note, the contract must also contain the date of the transaction.
The law also requires certain provisions in the contract, including a notice of cancellation. The contract must also include a provision providing information about other ownership interests in other home improvement companies. These disclosures are important and failure to include them allows an argument that the contract is unenforceable.
In short, if you are a contractor doing any type of home improvement work, you should be aware that there are statutory requirements that must be included in each contract or you expose the company to an argument that the contract is unenforceable. The last thing you want is to make a demand for the final payment and to give the home owner an argument that they do not have to pay you because you failed to comply with the statutory requirements.
Conversely, if you are a homeowner in dispute with a contractor, you may have leverage if they don’t have the right contract.