Making home improvements can be a stressful experience. Having a contractor do shoddy work only makes things more difficult. If you find yourself having trouble with your home improvement contractor, there are several steps you can take to help remedy the situation. But if you find that you’re unable to come to an agreement, what can you do? Here are a few tips regarding your rights to cancel a home improvement contract and advice on how to work with your contractor.
Contract Cancellation and Working with Your Contractor
In California, a written contract is required for all home improvement projects over $500. A home improvement contract must include the consumer’s right to cancel or rescind the contract. Homeowners have three business days to cancel a home improvement contract. If you are a senior (age 65 and older), you have five business days to cancel a home improvement contract. The homeowner must give the contractor written notice of their intent not to be bound by the contract. The contractor is required to return any money that was paid within ten days. The consumer must return any materials applied to the contract back to the contractor.
If you’re beyond the cancelation period and you find yourself experiencing a problem with your contractors there are several steps you can take to reach an agreement. Throughout the entire project you need to have open communication with the contractor. Keep in mind unforeseen delays may occur, such as inclement weather, labor, or material shortage, etc. However, constant excuses from the contractor may be a sign that further action is required.
If you find that your contractor is behind schedule in completing the job, reach out to them. Give them a call to discuss the issue and have the contractor address what they will do to fix the situation. If that approach isn’t successful, send the contractor a letter detailing your concerns and request that the work be completed per the contract or request a new completion date. If the contractor fails to respond to your letter, send a second letter reiterating your concerns and include your intent to terminate the contract if the contractor does not act to complete the job as agreed. You may wish to include your options to hire someone else to complete the job and your right to file a complaint with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB).
File a complaint with Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) to alert the company that you are seeking other avenues of mediation. You may also contact the CSLB to discuss mediation or arbitration. The CSLB may take legal action against the contractor. At all times, keep a record of your communications with the company and any proof of your attempts to resolve the issue.
If these methods fail, consider cancelling the contractor. Homeowners should understand that there may be some ramifications for terminating the contract. The contractor may sue for “breach of contract”. It is advised to seek legal advice before writing the contractor to cancel the contract.
Before You Hire a Contractor
Finding the right contractor takes time and research. Before you hire a contractor, consider some of these helpful tips:
- Hire state licensed contractors only that also have workers’ compensation insurance for their employees.
- Get multiple bids and references from qualified contractors.
- Check the contractor’s reputation at www.checkbca.org.
- Make sure all promises, project expectations, warranties and guarantees are in writing.
- Only sign the contract if you completely understand the terms.
Check out BCA’s info graphic “Tips for Hiring a Contractor” for more information. Follow BCA on Facebook for more useful tips, scam alerts, and more.
About Business Consumer Alliance
Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.