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Don't Sign A Contractor's Contract Without Having A Lawyer Read It First

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If you're fortunate enough to be able to hire a contractor to build your own home, it's important to make sure you are legally protected. A construction attorney can help see to it that you are. Here's why you should seek legal counsel when building a home:

You Need An Advocate In The Contract

Even a reputable contractor is going to write a contract with terms that are favorable to him and his company, not you. When the contractor you have decided to go with presents the contract for your signature, explain that you will need to have it reviewed by a construction lawyer first.

An attorney who specializes in construction law has in-depth knowledge in both the construction trades industry and the pertinent laws. They also have experience in construction lawsuits and know where things can go wrong. The following terms should be included in the contract:

  • The work that will be completed. There's a lot of work that needs to be done to build a house! It all needs to be explicitly spelled out, though; whether it's the foundation, framing, tile, or siding, the exact materials that will be used, the contact information for subcontractors, and specific brands, colors, and model numbers need to be listed.
  • The building schedule. You don't want to start a project with no set end date in mind. The building contractor should specify the date construction will be completely done. Most contracts will have built-in contingencies for things that happen outside of a contractor's control, such as an extended period of severe weather that prohibits work. Contractors also won't typically include any compensation for you should they simply go over their schedule, but your own attorney can construct an addendum with a clause that reimburses you a set amount for each day of delay. Of course, the contractor may counteroffer or refuse to accept this, but if he wants your business he will be willing to negotiate.
  • Payment schedule. When a home is built, the homeowners will be expected to make payments as each stage of the house is completed. There is typically a payment made at the time the contract is signed, and then the contractor will need periodic payments as the work progresses. Any subcontractors he hires will hold a lien against your property until they are paid, so it's important to know what you are paying for and when.
  • Warranty. Some contractors have a warranty, but some don't. A warranty will provide you some protection if the contractor or one of the subcontractors don't do a good job or cause damage.