After major storms roll through, we see a lot of lawsuits resulting from home repair contracts. If you have storm damage from Sandy, don’t be a victim twice. Here are some tips to keep you out of a dispute with your home repair contractor.
Be Sure They Are Licensed: Every home improvement contractor in Maryland must be licensed, and their license number must be on the contract. Ask to see their Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) license. Check to be sure they are licensed and in good standing at the Commission either on line (www.dllr.stat.md.us) or by calling the MHIC at 410-230-6309. If they are licensed, and they mess up the job, you may be able to get reimbursed from the MHIC Guaranty Fund.
Get a Detailed Written Contract: It always amazes me how many people exchange thousands of dollars on a handshake deal. It is legal, but good luck proving the terms in court. Get a written contract that sets forth exactly the work to be done, and the price. Read it before you sign it.
Make Sure They Are Good: You can ask the MHIC about complaints against a company when you call to check the license. Also, call the Maryland Consumer Protection Division at 410-528-8662, and the Better Business Bureau to see if the business has any complaints filed against it. Google the contractor and read some reviews if any are available. Get some referrals.
Get A Second Opinion: If the contractor is suggesting an expensive repair, get a second opinion from another contractor before agreeing to the work.
Beware of Con Men: They come out the woodwork after storms. They drive around to spot damage, knock on your door, don’t have written estimates, and make “too good to be true” deals.
Your Right To Cancel: If the contract is signed in your home, you have three business days to cancel under the Maryland Door to Door Sales Act. Don’t rely on this to sign up quickly. It is best to consider all of your options and be slow to sign a contract.
Don’t Pay More Than 1/3 Up Front: It is against the law for the contractor to accept more than 1/3 in advance. If they ask you to pay more up front, consider it a big warning sign.
Worry About Subcontractors: If this was a big project and there are subcontractors, you should be sure they are paid before you make the final payment to the general contractor. If the subs get stiffed by the general, they can still come back and file a mechanics lien on your house, even if you paid up and did nothing wrong! You just don’t want to be in that sort of mess.
Get A Consultation: If you think something is fishy, or if you feel uneasy about your contractor, feel free to call us for a consultation so we can read the contract, make sure your contractor is legit, and spot any possible problems. We do charge $50 for that service, but it could save you thousands of dollars if you are dealing with an unscrupulous home improvement contractor.