Before you contract to have a home built or to have repairs or remodeling done on your home, there are certain things you should know. First of all, Georgia now has, under the auspices of the Secretary of State, a State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors (see O.C.G.A. Sections 43-41-1 through 43-41-17). Enforcement of the standards and licensing requirements it has established went into effect on July 1, 2008.
Please note, however, that certain specialty occupations such as roofers, painters, drywall contractors and repair handymen will be exempt and thus not licensed by the state. Utility-related trades such as plumbers, electricians and air-conditioning contractors are regulated by a different entity, the Georgia Construction Industry Licensing Board. If you have questions about whether a tradesman needs a state license, you may contact the Secretary of State’s office or review their website.
Most contractors are also subject to county or city licensing requirements. You can check with your county or city government to make sure your contractor has the proper licensing or to report someone operating without the required local license.
If you have a dispute with your builder, you should carefully review your warranty and follow the procedures it outlines for the completion of repairs. Normally a warranty only covers defects in materials and workmanship and for a specified period of time. If you enlist the services of a professional home inspector, you can ask for a written decision concerning any disputed warranty items. Be sure to keep complete and accurate records of your efforts to have the repairs made. Your warranty or your contract may give you certain arbitration rights as well.
In addition, Georgia’s Right to Repair Act (O.C.G.A. Sections 8-2-35 through 8-2-43) provides a notification process for suing a builder, subcontractor or design professional for defective construction or remodeling of your home. Owners of new and old single-family homes, duplexes and condominiums must follow all of the Act’s requirements (summarized in the link below) in order to file a lawsuit, and buyers must be given notice of these provisions in their sales contracts.
Signs of a Possible Scam
These indicators, while not necessarily deceptive in nature, point to potential problems and are red flags warning you to exercise caution. Does the contractor:
- Solicit door-to-door?
- Just happen to have materials left over from a previous job?
- Only accept cash payments?
- Ask you to get the required building permits?
- Not list a business number in the local telephone directory?
- Tell you your job will be a “demonstration?”
- Pressure you for an immediate decision?
- Offer an exceptionally long guarantee?
- Ask you to pay for the entire job up front?
- Suggest that you borrow money from a lender he or she knows?
Tips for choosing and working with a contractor
- Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for referrals.
- Contact local trade organizations, such as the Home Builders Association of Georgia, to find contractors in your area.
- Ask the contractor for references of customers who had projects similar to yours. Contact each reference and inspect the work if possible.
- Get written estimates from several companies for identical project specifications.
- Always insist on a contract for work to be performed, with all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing.
- Agree on start and completion dates and have them written into the contract.
- Consider setting payment terms in conjunction with completed stages of the job.
- When the job is done, make sure it matches the terms of the contract.
- Do not pay for any work that is incomplete.