What You Should Know About Working with a Home Improvement Contractor

What You Should Know About Working with a Home Improvement Contractor


Hi, I’m David and I work in the Legal Division
at Consumer Affairs. We all know that home renovations and contractor repairs can get
expensive and, sometimes, problematic. In fact, consumer complaints about home improvement
contractors are one of the top complaints we get here at the Department every year.
We can help — not just if something unfortunately does go wrong, but in thinking through what
you need to know before you even hire a contractor. Ready? First, don’t forget that anyone who does home
improvement work in New York City that costs more than $200 must be licensed … so always
hire only licensed contractors. A DCA license doesn’t just mean you’re working with a legal
contractor — it also means we conducted a state background check and that they passed
a contracting test regarding consumer rights. It also means you qualify for extra protection
from the City’s Contractor Trust Fund, so if something does go wrong we actually can
reimburse you for a portion of the damages or unfinished work. There are thousands of home improvement contractors
in the City and it’s easy to check if they are licensed….just go to our website and
use the Instant License Check or call 311. Don’t take anyone’s word for it because
they’ve given you a “license number” or because they have painted a “license
number” on their truck. Always check with DCA to be sure. Once you find a licensed contractor, ask for
at least three references. You can also call 311 to check if DCA has gotten any complaints
about this business. Remember, it’s important to shop around when choosing a home improvement
contractor. Don’t settle for the first estimate the contractor gives you without comparing
prices. Next, ask for a written estimate of the costs
for the entire scope of the work to be done. By law, this must be provided to you if you
request it and if the contractor plans on charging you a fee for the estimate, they
must tell you in advance. Never let work begin or make payments until
you have a written contract that includes all of the specifics on the work you’re
requesting and how much the materials will cost. You can download a model estimate and
contract from nyc.gov. Don’t forget that before you sign a contract, you should read
it carefully and understand the cancellation notice. And remember that by law, you can
cancel any home improvement contract within three days. Don’t finance improvements or repairs through
your contractor. It is illegal for a contractor to offer financing or to offer to arrange
a loan. If a contractor does attempt to do this, you can file a complaint immediately
online or by calling 311. Never pay in cash and never pay more than
a quarter of the total amount upfront. Your payments should coincide with the progress
of specific work. Be sure to keep track of all paperwork and payments. If you have any questions or concerns, please
call 311 or you can file a complaint at nyc.gov. To learn even more, visit nyc.gov and search
for “Home Improvement Contractor.”

One thought on “What You Should Know About Working with a Home Improvement Contractor

  1. Hi David. I'm in NJ. The contractor I hired is license and insured, I did all the things you stated before hiring him. He messed up the floors and his work failed, he left the job. I'm pursuing him with CAF. The insurance he gave me is only liability. How do I know if he has a bond and does the contractor trust fund rule applies to NJ? I'm now working with another contractor to correct and complete the work.

    Thank you for the info.

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