Home Improvement Contracts: What Does Prompt Payment Mean?

Believing Before Seeing? How You Can Handle Home Improvement Contractor Payment Disputes

Home Is Where the Legal Liability Is

As the old saying goes, a man’s home is his castle—or a woman’s home is her castle, as the case may be. A home is also the largest single investment most of us will ever make and the most valuable asset we will ever own. What goes on in our homes is uniquely our choice, but also uniquely our responsibility, reflected in the law by premises liability. You own the home; someone slips on your untreated, icy front walk and you own that, too.

Improving your home is both an investment in your financial well-being and an investment in your overall comfort, both physical and psychological.

Imagine the following situation, and the distress it would cause you:

You have staked thousands of dollars on a repair to your foundation, partnering with a local contractor. Sometime later—but not nearly as long as you thought it would take—the contractor is at the door, insisting the project is over and the balance is due now. You ask to see the work done, to bring in an inspector, but are told the payment is still due now. In trying to reason with the contractor, you are told the contractor will not be leaving until you pay immediately. The contractor begins to grow heated, to threaten lawsuits, to intimidate you.

To get this person to leave your home, you pay up. Later inspection proves that most of what you asked for and paid for was never done—and what little was done, was done poorly.

It is understandable, then, with emotions running high and so much at stake financially, that so many regulations exist in Massachusetts regarding home improvement projects.

An Overview of Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Regulations

All home improvement contractors must register with and be licensed by the Commonwealth.

Any project over $1000 requires a written contract. There are fairly strict and detailed requirements to what must be included in a home improvement contract. One such provision is that the contractor can ask for no more than 1/3 of the cost as a deposit, but may also collect the cost for special materials up front.

A contract can also include a payment schedule, and provisions for the right to inspect the work completed, explicitly.

What Constitutes Prompt Payment on Home Improvement Contracts?

Payment is never due immediately on a Massachusetts private construction project. From the time that the prime contractor requests payment, the homeowner has 15 days to approve or deny the request for payment. It is in this time period that inspection should take place. Once the homeowner approves the request, he or she has 45 days to make the payment.

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