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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > March 2012 > Spring Home Improvement Tips

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Spring Home Improvement Tips

If you are considering a home repair this spring or summer, make sure you know how to find a good contractor.

Begin by asking family and friends for recommendations of reliable contractors. If possible, check out the work contractors have done for previous customers.

Next, check each contractor’s reputation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Search for complaints filed against the business to help determine whether it is trustworthy.

Warning: even if you find no complaints, don’t assume the contractor is reliable. Some unscrupulous contractors and scam artists continually change the name of their businesses to fool unsuspecting consumers. Check with the Ohio Secretary of State to determine if the business is registered with the state.

Once you narrow your selection to roughly three different contractors, get written estimates from each one for the work you want to have done. Compare the estimates before making a final decision.

Once you select a contractor, get everything in writing. A written contract should include the following information:
•    Your full name and address
•    Contractor’s name, address, and phone number (not someone else’s name or number)
•    Complete description of the work to be done
•    Provision requiring your written approval for any changes
•    Explanations of any guarantee or warranty
•    Any verbal promises the contractor makes
•    Total cost of the work
•    Specific terms for payment of materials and labor
•    Starting date and completion date
•    Provision that says you are not required to pay attorney fees, court costs, or damages in case of a dispute or cancellation
•    Requirement for the contractor to obtain all necessary permits and inspections
•    Your signature and the contractor’s signature

Remember, too, that the contract should not require you to pay a large down payment or payment in full until the project is complete and has been inspected. Limit your down payment and avoid paying in cash, if possible. Understand that if the contract includes a mandatory arbitration clause, you will be waiving your right to sue.

Keep in mind that under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act, consumers have three days to cancel most contracts they sign at their home or at a location that is not a company’s normal place of business, such as a home improvement show. All cancellations must be in writing.

Door-to-door salespeople must notify consumers of their right to cancel and provide a cancellation form. If a contractor does not provide you with a cancellation form, don’t do business with that contractor.