If you need to have some work done on your house, you likely trust your contractor is competent, honest and hard-working. And if you are not an experienced construction worker, you may think that explaining what you believe needs to be done on a project is enough for your contractor to agree to the work you need done. But can you imagine…

Let’s say your neighbor, Paul, had storm damage on his home. He found a contractor to make the necessary repairs on his home. And after sitting together in his kitchen, discussing the project, the contractor handed him an agreement stating: “roof and siding.” Not knowing any better, he signed and dated the agreement, trusting things would go according to plan. However, since that was his only documentation of the work he needed completed, neither Paul nor the contractor had a clear-cut plan in place.

Your contract must be specific

Although Tennessee’s construction laws regulate the industry, most residents may be unfamiliar with them. When you enter into a contract, it is important to outline the specific terms of your agreement. You should also understand your legal rights in regard to a breach of contract, delays and liens.

Unfortunately for Paul, his experience was far worse than anticipated. It took weeks to finish what he believed to be a small project. The contractor installed the wrong siding on his home. And although the work they had discussed was not completed, the contractor filed a lien against Paul’s home when he refused to pay.

Specific terms of a contract

It was not until Paul ended up in court that he learned a good contract includes:

  • Detailed description of the work – including the specific materials chosen
  • Timeline – beginning and completion dates
  • Financial information – full cost of the project and payment schedule
  • Cleanup – how materials will be disposed, and by whom
  • Warranty – what labor and materials are warrantied, by whom, and for how long
  • Contractor’s information – with state-issued license number, liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage

If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can learn from Paul’s experience and get a properly-drafted legal contract from the start. This might also include clauses allowing you to withhold payment in instances of a breach of contract. This will not only help you get what you desire, but also protect your rights to explore your options if the terms of your agreement are unmet.