Attorney General: Home Improvement

A Senior Consumer Guide to Home Improvement


For more information, contact:
Attorney General's Office
Department of Consumer Protection
Better Business Bureau

This brochure is designed to help the senior consumer who is planning a home improvement project. Problems with home improvement contractors rank near the top of all complaints received by various agencies of the State of Connecticut.

The most frequent complaints include work performed by an unregistered home improvement contractor, unnecessary work, cost overruns, missed deadlines and shoddy workmanship. Senior consumers have reported the following home improvement nightmares:

An out-of-state chimney contractor using a Connecticut mail box address solicited by telephone an elderly Easton widow to clean and inspect her chimney at a very attractive price. Once in her home, the workmen convinced the widow that her chimney was in critical condition and needed immediate repair. The workmen took hundreds of dollars and did not even clean the chimney in a satisfactory manner.

A Hartford senior was approached by a driveway paving crew doing business in his neighborhood. This unregistered, traveling contractor sold the homeowner a contract for an overlay on the driveway and sealing, performing the work at night. The driveway work was performed in a substandard manner and the contractor cannot be located for repair or warranty work.

An elderly Ledyard woman entered into a contract for the installation of a swimming pool at her home for use by her grandchildren. The contractor offered to arrange for financing of the pool. Without informing the homeowner, the contractor secured the home improvement loan with a mortgage on the home.

Before committing yourself to a home improvement contract, and especially before you give a deposit:

Check out the contractor. Call the Department of Consumer Protection at 860-713-6110 and the Better Business Bureau at 203-269-2700 to find out if there are any complaints on file against the contractor, and to make sure the contractor is registered with DCP.

Ask for references of jobs that are similar to your plans completed by the contractor and check them out. If possible, look at the work the contractor has completed for other homeowners.

Ask the contractor to explain any warranties and guarantees on materials and workmanship. Be sure to inquire about any limitations on warranties and guarantees.

Beware of offers such as "today only". Respectable contractors do not employ these kinds of bargains. Take your time and get at least three quotes for the work. Donít be pressured to sign the contract while a salesperson is hovering over you.

Do not commit yourself to a contract where full payment must be made before the work is completed. Holding back a portion of the amount due until after work is satisfactorily completed is a good incentive for the contractor to complete work well and on time.

Ask the contractor for a copy of a certificate of insurance for the proposed work before the job is started. Liability and workmans' compensation insurance help protect you for any mishaps on the job.

Include in your contract a provision that the contractor is required to supply you with lien waivers from all suppliers and subcontractors.

Have someone knowledgeable review documents before you sign them. Try to have another person present when you are dealing with a salesperson.

Be certain that the contractor is registered to do business in Connecticut. Homeowners who deal with registered contractors are eligible to apply to the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund to satisfy uncollectible judgments of up to $15,000, for actual damages. Contact the Department of Consumer Protection to confirm that the contractor is registered.

If you will be obtaining financing for the home improvement, be aware before signing any documents if a mortgage on your home is involved to secure the financing.

Do not sign any document that has blank spaces that can be filled in at a later time. Make sure you receive a copy of every document, completed in full, including a copy of any warranties on materials or workmanship.

Know your rights. The contractor must supply you with a written notice of your right to cancel the contract within three business days of the date the contract is signed. Even if you have signed a contract you may be able to cancel without any penalty.

Content Last Modified on 10/13/2005 12:34:55 PM