All home improvement contractors must be registered with the state. Your contractor’s HIC license number, name and address should appear on all contracts and advertising. Contracts must be in writing and include a start and end date for your job and a notice of your right to cancel within 3 business days of signing. Hiring a registered contractor is your strongest protection against financial damage or loss on a home improvement job. The state’s Home Improvement Guarantee Fund can provide up to $15,000 in financial restitution per contract if something goes wrong in a job done by a registered contractor.
The CT Department of Consumer Protection offers a great library of information to help property owners protect themselves while having home improvement work done. We encourage you to become familiar with this information before gathering bids and choosing a contractor for your project. Here are a few important things to keep in mind:
Get more than one estimate for your project and take the time to make sure you understand what’s involved, including the types of materials to be used. Get to know potential contractors as much as possible and check their references. You can also check contractors’ litigation history to see if they’ve been sued by former clients. Go online to civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov, select “party name search” from the left menu and type in the contractor’s last and first name in the boxes provided.
Verify that the contractor has the appropriate level of worker’s compensation and liability insurance.
Insist on a detailed, written contract that includes start date, end date, work to be done, materials to be used and price. Include in the contract a payment schedule that corresponds to the progress of the work. A plan that provides the contractor with some money up front, some while work is underway, and the final payment only when everything is finished to your satisfaction is strongly suggested! If a contractor asks for all the money up front, or wants a very large down payment, it may signal they are in financial trouble – or worse. Get receipts for all payments, and never pay in cash.
Though your contractor may secure them for you, building permits are ultimately the property owner’s responsibility. Verify with your local building official that all permits are in place.
If more than 30 days have gone by from the start date in your contract and the contractor has not performed a substantial amount of the work specified (or within 30 days after the date of the contract if no start date is listed), you may request a refund of your money. If the contractor fails to refund your money within 10 days of your request, he/she is subject to criminal action and other administrative action.
Do not sign a certificate of completion or make your final payment until you are sure that everything in the contract is done. Be sure all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid; the work has been finished to your satisfaction; and is approved by your local building official, if applicable.