Residential Construction Issues in Connecticut

Are you in this midst of a construction project or just thinking about one? Is your contractor licensed? Does the construction contract contain all of the information required by Connecticut state law? With all of the construction going on in Fairfield County, it is important for you to review these issues to make sure that you, the homeowner, are protected in the event your project turns sour.

In Connecticut, both new home builders and home improvement contractors must be licensed. There are separate and distinct licenses for each and both are licensed by the Department of Consumer Protection (“DCP”). Holding either license, however, does not mean that the builder/contractor has done anything more than fill out the proper paperwork and pay the required fees. The license is not an endorsement by the DCP that the builder or contractor does good work or maintains appropriate insurance. According to the DCP, the definition of a “Home Improvement” is “any permanent change to residential property, including but not limited to driveways, swimming pools, porches, garages, roofs, siding, insulation, solar energy systems, flooring, patios, landscaping, painting, radon mitigation, residential underground oil tank removals, fences, doors, windows and waterproofing, unless the work contracted for is worth less than $200.00.” A “New Home Construction Contractor” is any person or business who builds speculative housing or contracts with a consumer to construct or sell a new home or builds any portion of a new home prior to occupancy.

To check if your new home builder or renovation contractor is licensed, you can go to DCP’s web site at http://www.ct.gov/dcp and click on the Home Improvement tab. A major benefit of using a registered new home builder or renovation contractor is that DCP administers the “New Home Construction Guaranty Fund” and the “Home Improvement Guaranty Fund.” These funds are available to reimburse consumers who are unable to collect for loss or damage suffered from a registered contractor’s failure to perform under a contract. The maximum recovery from the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund is $15,000.00 and $30,000.00 from the New Home Construction Guaranty Fund. There are specific requirements for collecting from each of the funds and you should contact DCP or an attorney knowledgeable in construction law to make sure that you fully comply with all of the requirements.

Once you determine that your home improvement contractor is licensed, you must make sure that the contract contains all of the required information. Connecticut law requires the following of a home improvement contract: (1) It must be in writing, including all changes and modifications; (2) It must include four dates: the date the contract is signed, the date the work will begin, the date by which the work will be completed, and the date by which the homeowner may cancel the transaction; (3) It must include a Notice of the Customer’s Right to Cancel within three business days after signing the contract. The Notice must be attached to and made part of the contract, and must be in duplicate; (4) The notice contained in the contract must be near the customer’s signature and in substantially the following form: “You the buyer may cancel this transaction at any time prior to midnight on the third business day after the date of this transaction. See the attached notice of cancellation for an explanation of this right.” NOTE: Saturday is a legal business day in Connecticut; (5) Both the contractor and customer must sign and date the contract; (6) Contractor must give customer a completed copy of the contract to keep; (7) The contract must be entered into by a registered contractor or salesperson; and (8) It must contain the name and address of the contractor.

If you are building a new home, once you determine that your new home contractor is licensed, you should make sure that the contract contains all of the required information. The new home contract must contain a provision advising you that you may be contacted by the contractor’s other prospective customers concerning the quality and timeliness of the contractor’s new home construction work. You then may advise the contractor in writing upon execution of the contract that you do not wish to be contacted.

If your contractor refuses to enter into a contract that complies with the necessary requirements, you should seek another contractor.

It is recommended that you do not give your contractor cash advances or large up-front payments. You and your contractor should agree on a payment schedule that roughly follows the progress of the work (i.e. – 20 percent progress payments each time the job reaches pre-determined levels of completion). It is never advisable to provide the final payment until the job is complete.

Finally, Connecticut law provides for certain express and implied warranties for new home construction. You should contact DCP or an attorney knowledgeable in construction law if you have a new home warranty issue.