Hiring a Contractor? Get it in Writing Every Time

Hiring a contractor for your construction project is one thing and ensuring a smooth experience is a completely different thing. One needs to be aware of the best work practices with respect to the contractual obligations when hiring a contractor. The written contract protects both the parties i.e. you and the contractor, which is why all agreed agreements must be put in writing for clarity and to avoid any assumptions or misconception.

The scope and extent of work is one of the most disputed areas related to a construction project. Be as specific as possible when you write the contract. A blank or partially blank contract should never be signed. Get a copy of the contract, read it carefully and sign only when you completely understand the terms set in the contract.

Make sure that the contract includes everything that can be deemed as important viz. cleanup and removal of debris from the construction site. The contract should also limit the money paid upfront and require your nod before the final payment. For a long term project, usually there are milestones set so that the payments can be made as and when certain milestone is achieved. Verbal assurances are not worth a dime, so get it in writing every time you hire a contractor.

What is a good contract?

Although there is nothing called a standard contract, there are certain important things which needs to be included in any written contract to avoid confusions and disputes.

  • The contract should specifically mention the name and address of the contractor’s firm i.e. name of the firm’s official representative, address and contact details along with the address of the project site.
  • Applicable architectural plans and drawings along with the materials to be used. Clear, concise and detailed specifications of the job would avoid misunderstanding and assumptions.
  • Notation that the construction would be done as per the local building codes and it would adhere to the construction safety and quality standards.
  • A statement which details the contractor’s public liability and property damage insurance so that you are indemnified against any such loss.
  • The contract should detail the entire project cost breakup and terms of payment.
  • The start date and the proposed end date of the project should be mentioned along with the applicable penalties.
  • Warranties of workmanship, the duration of the warranty and everything which is under the scope of the project must be covered.
  • For any change to the written contract, there should be work order change requests created to avoid any confusion.
  • You may prefer to include an arbitration clause which would mean that in case of any dispute, it can be settled in arbitration as opposed to in the court.
  • Any information, you consider as important and vital to the project can be included as part of the written contract.
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