tn legal

“A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.” — Groucho Marx, comedian and film star (1890-1977)

When homeowners need to make a major repair to a house, or when they want to build a significant improvement or addition, or undertake a remodeling project, they will need a qualified contractor — and a written contract.

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 written 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.

Q. What if the contractor says, “Let’s just use the one-page written bid estimate”?

That can be a problem, because an estimate usually does not contain the details referenced above. Don’t be shy about insisting on a written contract. After all, you are dealing with a “CONTRACTor”!

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.

Tip: Adding the phrase “Time is of the essence” emphasizes that the work is to be done on time.

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.

Jim Hawkins is a Tennessee general practice and public interest law attorney. 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 future column topics, call (615) 452-9200.

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