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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
3:28 AM Thu, Sept. 20th

Contracts protect homeowners, builders

I receive several calls from homeowners and/or concerned neighbors about the sales methods taking place in areas that were affected by the hail storm in July.

Here are some precautions to follow. A contract is a legal agreement between two or more people. A written agreement is one of the most important communication tools for both you and the licensed contractor. It insures there are no misunderstandings about what a job will include. A thorough contract tells how the work will be done, when it will be done, what materials will be used and how much it will cost. Disagreements over home improvement projects or repairs can cost time and money. Besides producing bad feelings, they also can lead to lawsuits or other legal action. A well-written contract can prevent that.

All contracts must include specific information about your rights and responsibilities. In addition, any changes made to that contract must be in writing, be legible, be easy to understand, and inform you of your rights to cancel or rescind the contract. If you are promised something verbally, make sure that it is also included in writing.

A contract should contain everything agreed upon by you and your licensed contractor. It should detail the work, price, when payments will be made, who gets the necessary building permits, and when the job will be finished.

Contracts can be lengthy, especially when it's a major remodeling job run by a general contractor, and they're written in legal jargon that is difficult to understand. In most cases, the contract was crafted by a lawyer whose job was to protect the company or person named in the contract, yet most people are quick to sign a contract without even reading it.

Arizona State Statutes Title 32, Chapter 10 of ARS §32-1158(B) requires any contract in an amount of more than $1,000 with a property owner to be in writing and contain all of the following elements:

• The name of the contractor and the contractor's business address and license number.

• The name and mailing address of the owner and the jobsite address or legal description.

• The date the parties entered into the contract.

• The estimated date of completion of all work to be performed under the contract.

• The total dollar amount to be paid to the contractor by the owner for all work to be performed under the contract, including all applicable taxes.

• The dollar amount of any progress payment and the stage of construction at which the contractor will be entitled to collect progress

• Payments during the course of construction under the contract.

• That the property owner has the right to file a written complaint with the registrar for an alleged violation of section 32-1154, subsection A. The contract shall contain the registrar's telephone number and website, address and shall state that complaints must be made within the applicable time period as set forth in section 32-1155, subsection A. The information in this paragraph must be prominently displayed and in the

contract in at least 10-point bold type, and the contract shall be signed by the property owner and the contractor or the contractor's designated representative. A good contract also has warnings and notices about the right to cancel, mechanics liens, and allowable delays.

Since a written contract protects both you and the contractor, all agreements should be put in writing. It should be as specific as possible regarding all materials to be used, such as the quality, quantity, weight, color, size, or brand name as it may apply. For example, in the case of these roofing contracts, the contract should give details about whether this is a partial reroof, or a tear off, or a install over existing shingles, the type of roofing material should be listed along with manufacturer and color and type and if a permit is required for the job. There are "contracts" that homeowners are being convinced to sign that do not contain the required information.

Make sure the contract includes everything that is agreed to, up to and including complete cleanup and removal of debris and materials.

Never sign a blank or partially blank contract. Once you sign, both you and the contractor could be bound by everything set down in the contract. Make sure to get a copy of the contract, and keep it for your records.

Always update your contract. Even after you have signed the contract and the work already has begun, you may want to make some changes. If you have added or subtracted work, substituted materials or equipment, changed the completion date, etc., make sure to note it in writing on a "change order," and include any price changes. After a change order is signed, it becomes part of the written contract.

Make sure the financial terms are clear. The contract should include the total price, when payments will be made, and whether there is a cancellation penalty.

Never sign a contract where the work to be done or the merchandise to be purchased or the price and terms of the product or service are blank and will be filled in later. It's like signing a blank check. Wait until everything you want is specified in the contract before you sign it. Once you attach your signature, it is difficult to prove later that the paper was blank when signed. You are entitled to a copy of any contract or agreement you sign.

It is important to deal with a local reliable roofing contractor. YCCA is here to assist with referrals.

The key to having a successful project is to have a well-developed contract that doesn't leave anything out. Everything from the types of materials used to the cleanup of the construction site should be included in the contract. If something goes wrong during any phase of the project, both you and the general contractor should be able to rely on the terms actually specified in the contract.

Don't sign anything until you understand the contract and agree to the terms. Anything you sign as authorization to move forward with the project could become the contract. Ask questions until you understand and agree to all the terms before signing. You also may wish to review the proposed contract with an attorney.

Remember, the contract is your best defense in the event that something goes wrong while you are working with your contractor. It's your job to read the entire contract and to address anything that seems out of place. You are legally binding yourself to the contract, so you need to be sure it represents your best interest.

Remember to tune in to YCCA's Hammer Time twice each weekend Saturday and Sunday morning 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners and contractors.