The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) offers residents several tips on how to research and hire home improvement contractors.
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Understand Your Payment Options
You have several payment options for most home improvement and maintenance and repair projects. For example, you can get your own loan or ask the contractor to arrange financing for larger projects. For smaller projects, you may want to pay by check or credit card. Don’t pay cash.
Whatever option you choose, be sure you have a reasonable payment schedule and a fair interest rate. Here are some additional tips:
Try to limit your down payment. This will protect you from having to recoup a large investment if you aren’t satisfied with the work.
Try to base payments during the project upon completion of a defined amount of work. This way, if the work is not proceeding according to schedule, payments also are delayed.
Be sure to get a receipt for your final payment. According to DC Law 47-288.03, if a mechanic’s lien is filed against your home and you present proof of your final payment, the lien will be rendered void.
According to federal law, if you have a problem with merchandise or services that you charged to a credit card, and you have made a good faith effort to work out the problem with the seller, you have the right to withhold from the card issuer payment for the merchandise or services. You can withhold payment up to the amount of credit outstanding for the purchase, plus any finance or related charges.
You can protect yourself from inappropriate lending practices. Here’s how.
Don’t do the following:
- Agree to a home equity loan if you don’t have enough money to make the monthly payments.
- Sign any document you haven’t read or any document that has blank spaces to be filled in after you sign.
- Let anyone pressure you into signing any document.
- Agree to financing through your contractor without shopping around and comparing loan terms.
- Deed your property to anyone. First consult an attorney, knowledgeable family member, or someone else you trust.
Keep all paperwork for your project in one place. This includes copies of the contract, change orders and correspondence with your home improvement contractors. Keep a journal of all phone calls, conversations and activities. You also might want to take photographs as the job progresses. These records are especially important if you have problems with your project—during or after construction.
Completing the Job: A Checklist
Before you sign off and make the final payment, use this checklist to make sure the job is complete. Check that the following has been completed:
- All work meets the standards spelled out in the contract.
- You have written warranties for materials and workmanship.
- You have proof that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
- The job site has been cleaned up and cleared of excess materials, tools and equipment.
- You have inspected and approved the completed work
For more information
Federal Trade Commission: 1 (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357)
National Association of Home Builders: (202) 266-8200
Visit the NAHB website and download: How to Find a Professional Remodeler.