The Hendersonville Standard Blog
The Hendersonville Standard Blog
Fixin’ (Up) Your Home: Contract Tips
“A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”
~ Groucho Marx, comedian and film star (1890-1977)
One of the Southern words I love is fixin.’ This one word can mean:
- making (“Momma’s fixin’ pancakes!”),
- preparing (“He’s fixin’ to go to town.”),
- repairing (“My roof only needs fixin’ when it rains.”), or
- improving (“He’s fixin’ up his truck with a new bed liner.”)
I am sure various readers will also point out the word’s veterinary application.
For homeowners who are fixin’ or fixin’ up their homes, it’s important to hire a contractor who will do a good job of repairing or remodeling for a fair price.
Q. How do I know that a contractor will do a good job for a fair price?
1. Only hire a licensed contractor. Ask for the license number, and call the Tennessee Home Improvement Commission at 741-5630 to be sure the license is up-to-date.
2. Ask the Commission if the contractor has paid the required insurance bond. An insurance bond means the contractor’s insurance company will pay you if the contractor goes out of business before finishing the work, or does not do a good job.
3. Ask the contractor for past customer names and phone numbers – then call and ask if the contractor did a good job.
4. Call the Better Business Bureau at 242-4222 or the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs at 741-4737 to find out if anyone has complained about the contractor.
5. Get at least two estimates in writing before deciding which contractor to hire. An estimate is how much the contractor says it will cost to do the job. Get a firm, complete price in writing before you sign a contract, and don’t be rushed into signing.
Q. What if I just tell the contractor what I want and shake hands on the deal?
Bad idea. Make sure your agreement with a contractor is in writing and that you have your own copy. This agreement is called a contract. It should say:
- what work will be done;
- what kind of materials will be used;
- when the work will be finished;
- how much the work will cost;
- how much you will pay for it (in payments or all at once); and
- what interest (extra money) you will pay if you are making payments.
Read everything in the contract to make sure it says only what you agreed to. Do not sign if you are not sure what something means. Be sure to keep a copy that shows you both signed it.
Do not sign a contract with blank spaces. If there are blank spaces in the contract, put an “x” through them before you sign.
It is a good idea to pay only about one-third of the total price as a down payment. Do not pay for all the work until:
- the work is completely finished;
- You have checked the work and are happy with it; and
- Any problems are fixed.
Finally, do not pay cash. Pay by check or money order, so that you can prove you paid.
James B. (Jim) Hawkins is a general practice and public interest law attorney based in Gallatin. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention. Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. To suggest topics for future columns, call 452-9200.