Finding the right remodeling contractor your home improvement is a difficult task.  Understanding what you are agreeing to in a contract can be even more challenging.

It is not only important to identify a contractor that you are comfortable with, who communicates well, provides a sensible payment schedule, who has great references, and who is fully licensed and insured, it is equally important to make sure the contract is forthright and inclusive of all the materials and labor you are expecting from the project.

Be sure your contract includes what the contractor will and will not be providing.  In addition it should contain the following items:

Your contractor’s business name; physical street address (not a PO Box), phone number and NYC Home Improvement Contractors license number.

A comprehensive scope of work that will be provided for your project, including a detailed list of materials covering size, color, model, brand and product information (when applicable).

Study your design or architectural plans and make sure all of the materials that you expected the contractor to provide is included in detail in the contract. If there are allowances, make sure it is noted, and a realistic price has been allocated for those materials.

A warranty covering materials and workmanship for a minimum of one year should be written in the contract. The warranty terms should be noted as “full” or “limited”. The name and address of the party who will honor the warranty should be identified; contractor, distributor or manufacturer.

The contract should include approximate start and completion dates, along with the financial terms of the contract, including total price, an acceptable payment schedule and any cancellation penalty.

A binding arbitration clause is also a good inclusion, in the event a disagreement occurs.  Arbitration may enable you to resolve disputes without costly litigation.

Never make any payments to any third parties or any individual names, or anyone whose name is not exactly the same as the one that appears on your contract. (If this request occurs that should raise a large red flag and you should immediately re-think your contractor selection.)

Thoroughly review the entire contract and be certain you understand it before signing it. It is important to ask questions about terms, or unfamiliar processes if you are not clear what they mean. Pay attention to details about change orders, additional fees, timelines and responsibilities. If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist. When it comes to your remodeling project, and protecting your family and home, you can never ask too many questions. 

Review the scope of the project and make sure all items you have requested from your contractor, and the design in its entirety, is included in the contract. If you do not see a specific item in the contract, consider it not included. And, never sign an incomplete contract. Make sure both you and your contractor have signed the agreement, including initialing any changes, and always keep a copy of the dually executed document for your records.

If changes occur during your project, put all changes to the scope of work, materials, labor and schedules in writing and ensure your contractor issues you a change order. Both you and your contractor should sign the change order and continue to keep one copy for yourself. It is not uncommon to have many change orders generated during a project; it protects both the consumer and contractor.

Lastly, make sure your contract includes a notice of cancellation.  NYC code requires contractors to provide a 3-day cancellation clause in their contracts which provides homeowners the right to cancel, without penalty, within that time frame.

It is a good idea to keep a job file which should include the contract, plans, specifications, invoices, change orders and all correspondence with the contractor. You may need to refer to these documents in the future.

At the end of the project, before you make your final payment, request a contractors Waiver of Mechanics Lien. This is your assurance that you will not be liable for any third-party claims for non-payment of materials or subcontractors.

or any questions about a contractor, or the requirements of a contractor agreement, you can contact the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (by calling 311) or visit their website at

For any questions about your remodeling project, you can contact NARI-HIC of Staten Island by e-mail at [email protected].

Cliff Siegel, President –   Cee Jay Real Estate Development Corp.

(917) 771-7710