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Protect Yourself Prior to Contracting for Renovations and Additions

Many homeowners are adding sunrooms, dens, extra bedrooms and/or bathrooms to their homes instead of moving to a larger house. There are several steps that all homeowners should take when looking for a contractor to ensure that they are protecting their interest in the construction process.

First, prior to hiring a contractor the homeowner should confirm that the contractor is licensed with the State of New Jersey. A homeowner may request to see proof of the contractor's license, as well as the contractor's insurance. In addition, the homeowner should request references and contact those homeowners who have had work done by this contractor. The homeowner will find that important information like professionalism, cleanliness, workmanship and timeliness is extremely useful in choosing a contractor.

Next, once a homeowner has chosen a contractor there are several items the homeowner should include in the contract. First, the homeowner should always have a contract that is signed by both parties. Moreover, the contract should be as specific as necessary, i.e., specifying the work to be done, the type of materials to be used and a time period to begin the work and an estimated completion date. In addition, it is important to discuss with the contractor who will obtain any necessary permits. The homeowner should call the local building department officials in their town to confirm whether a permit is necessary. Finally, the contract should indicate that the contractor is responsible to obtain all inspection permits once the work is completed.

Also, many planned communities with homeowners associations have regulations and by-Laws governing decks, shed, ancillary structures, patios, and sunrooms. You should always check with your association prior to commencing any construction. Failure to get approval from the association may result in daily fines and demands to stop construction or remove any conforming structures.

The contract should establish a payment plan. A deposit amount is appropriate but do not pay the full amount in advance. The homeowner and the contractor should agree to pay as the work is completed, therefore, if there are any problems or a contractor decides not to finish a job the homeowner, will have the remainder of the budget monies to complete the job.

It is important that the homeowner be aware of the progress on the work that is ongoing in the home. Many homeowners do not want to interfere or impose on a professional working on their home, but remember it is your home and your money, so ask questions. If there is something that is not done to the homeowner's liking, discuss it with the contractor before they leave the home. Getting a contractor to come back to replace or repair something may be more difficult than anticipated.

Of course, if there is a situation where a contractor leaves without completing a job or does not complete the project in a workmanlike manner, the homeowner can proceed to court to protect their rights, just remember to have a copy of the contract.