As summer approaches and the weather warms, you start to see what needs fixing, what needs paint and what might need replacement.
If construction, repairs, electrical work or plumbing are beyond the ability of the handyman or handywoman in your house, you may be looking for a reliable skilled contractor. Sometimes, that person has done work for your family or your neighbors and comes highly recommended.
Sometimes, you find them in the Yellow Pages, through one of the many online reference sites or you see a sign advertising their services in a public place.
No matter where you find them, Commissioner of Consumer Protection Jonathan A. Harris, suggests that you “Take your time, do some research, and make sure the contractor you hire is properly registered to work in Connecticut.”
Under the law, a home improvement contractor is anyone who performs improvements on residential property when the job exceeds $200 and when the cash price of all work performed in one year is more than $1,000. All contractors must be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection and adhere to certain requirements that protect consumers.
Following these simple do’s and don’ts assures that both you and your contractor are protected.
- DO confirm that your contractor is registered with DCP – they will have a wallet card with their registration number and expiration date.
- DO get more than one bid and make sure all bids contain the same quality of materials and time frames. The lowest bid is not always the best. Ask for references.
- DO ask your local building official about permits. (Even if you or your handy cousin is doing the work!!) It is your responsibility to obtain the appropriate building permit.
- DO assure that if the work is being done by skilled tradespeople such as electricians, plumbers or those working with heating, that they hold the appropriate Connecticut occupational licenses. If something goes wrong, you have no recourse if the work was not done by a properly licensed tradesperson.
- DON’T forget to ask for proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation.
- DON’T pay cash in advance, and it is perfectly fine to negotiate paying the final amount in 3 or 4 payments that reflect the progress of the work.
The Department of Consumer Protection recently published a complete guide for Home Improvement Contractors, which may have good information for homeowners as well. http://www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/pdf/Final_HomeImprovementGuide.pdf
Usually, the work is done correctly and you look forward to recommending the contractor to your friends and neighbors, but sometimes things go wrong, and you cannot come to an agreement with the contractor.
The Home Improvement Guaranty Fund is available through the Department of Consumer Protection if you suffer damages and your registered home improvement contractor is unable to make it right. After obtaining a court judgment, you may qualify for restitution up to $15,000 per contract. Go to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the Guaranty Fund.
For more information about consumer issues visit www.smartconsumer.ct.gov.
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.