Home remodeling poses enough challenges for homeowners when everything goes right, and even greater headaches are in score if you encounter unscrupulous builders or have conflicts with contractors. Complaints about home improvement contractors were among the most common complaints registered to consumer protection agencies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Knowing your consumer rights for home repairs can help you protect your home, wallet, and peace of mind during your next remodeling project.
State and Local Consumer Protection
Each state and municipality sets its own standards regarding consumer rights and home repairs. These rights vary dramatically from state to state, and while some states have strict guidelines to protect consumers during home renovation projects, others don't even require contractors to be licensed. To learn about your rights, contact your local department of consumer affairs and consumer protection or your local attorney general. Your local Better Business Bureau or contractor associations can also help you understand your rights regarding contractor licensing, payments and conflict resolution.
While no federal consumer protection law covers home repairs the way some state laws do, federal laws against false advertising and truth in lending might be applicable to a home improvement project. The American Bar Association notes that laws against false advertising would apply to contractors who advertise a service at a certain price but fail to deliver for that price. Truth in lending laws give you three business days to cancel any contract signed in your home, any contract that includes a financial claim against your home or a contract that involves four or more payments. Other federal consumer protection laws could also apply to specific home repair cases.
Insurance and Warranty Repairs
If you believe your repairs are covered under insurance or warranty, the best way to learn about your rights is to read your policy or warranty documents. Check the warranty provided by your builder as well as any third-party warranties. Your insurance policy or broker can also provide valuable information about your rights and coverage.
While consumer protection laws protect homeowners from contractor fraud, you can also prevent problems and ensure the repair process goes smoothly by taking steps to protect yourself from crooked contractors. The Federal Trade Commission suggests avoiding most door-to-door home repair sales and steering clear of contractors who only accept cash or demand full payment upfront. Avoid contractors who want you to make an immediate decision or sign a contract right away, and watch out for builders who ask you to pull permits rather than doing so themselves. Be sure to get all promises, prices and guarantees in writing to protect yourself if something goes wrong.
- Consumer Federation of America: Nation's Top Ten Consumer Complaints
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission: Hiring a Contractor
- American Bar Association: Remodeling? How to Avoid Getting Nailed
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission: Warranties for Newly Built Homes
- Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association: Homeowner's Insurance Settlement Process
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