"Buyer, beware!" might be advisable for consumers, but "Remodeler, beware!" is appropriate when it comes to state laws concerning home-improvement contractors.
For example, a 2000 Illinois law requires remodelers and other home-improvement contractors to provide clients with a brochure titled Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights. The information in the brochure includes tips on avoiding home-repair fraud, as well as basic terms to be included in contracts and a list of considerations for choosing contractors.
While such regulations mean yet another detail for remodelers to deal with, those with a professional approach should be glad to see them, say Scott Sevon, CGR, of Sevvonco Inc. in Palatine, Ill., and Andy Poticha of Design+ Construction Concepts Ltd. in Northbrook, Ill. They believe that a very small percentage of their peers are even aware of the Illinois brochure, let alone use it.
"This is just another way we can differentiate ourselves from the guys who don't know what they're doing," Sevon said at a recent meeting of the Remodelors Council of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago.
Other states have similarly tough regulations of which contractors need to be aware. For example, New Jersey and Wisconsin mandate that warranties be clearly explained; in West Virginia, warranty information must be part of the written contracts. Maine and Indiana require home-improvement contractors to provide a warranty. It is illegal in Oklahoma for contractors to promise work they know will not be performed.
Smart remodelers will check on what is required in their state. Even states without statutes aimed at the quality of home-improvement work might have laws dealing with other aspects of contracting, such as finance and licensing, according to the National Consumer Law Center in Washington.