3 Day right to cancel, your rights.



New York



Home Improvement Contract Requirements in Connecticut (virtually identical in West Chester County, NY)

The days of the “gentleman’s handshake” are gone. The law demands written contracts and that means more than a quick estimate and your signature.

Here’s what Connecticut law requires of a home improvement contract: • It must be in writing, including all changes and modifications. • It must include your Contractor Registration (HIC) number. • 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. • 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. See Appendix B for an example.

• 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. • Both you and your customer must sign and date the contract. • You must give your customer a completed copy of the contract to keep.

Why must it be in writing and dated?

For your own protection, be sure the contract includes everything you will and will not perform. For example, who is responsible for cleaning up debris left in the yard from the construction work? If you are remodeling a kitchen, is the cost of the appliances included in the contract price?

Take the time to explain it all to your customer — then write it all out. A large percentage of consumer complaints stems from nonspecific contracts, which lead to disagreements.

Be a troubleshooter. Think ahead to what you’ll need to do (or hire someone else to do) if you find a supporting wall has almost rotted away, or that the seasoned oak the customer requested is in short supply, or you hit a rock ledge. Then, explain your back-up plans in writing.

If the contract needs to be changed in any way after the original signing, be sure you and your customer both sign for all change orders, and that all changes include additional charges and changes to the completion date, if any. Put everything in writing!

While the law requires that all change orders be in writing, contractors often run into situations where authorization from homeowners for changes must be obtained while the contractor is on the job, but the customer is at work or elsewhere. This contingency should be provided for in the original contract so that the homeowner is fully informed of the potential for these situations. Follow up any such verbal authorizations with signed change orders as soon as possible to comply with the law.

Remember to always include these four key dates!

As noted earlier, the law requires four dates to be included in the home improvement contract:

1) Transaction Date

The transaction date, i.e., the date on which the contractor and consumer sign the contract, must be noted on the contract itself as well as on both copies of the “notice of cancellation” form attached to the contract.

2) Start Date

The contract must include the start date for the project. Many consumer complaints arise from the contractor’s failure to show up on time. To avoid misunderstandings about the start date, the contractor should explain to the homeowner that work on the project may include tasks such as applying for permits, ordering materials (that may have to be returned and reordered if they arrive damaged), and scheduling subcontractors — prior to actually appearing at the job site.

If more than thirty days go by from the start date in the contract and you have not performed a substantial amount of work, the customer can request a refund of his or her money. Further, if you fail to return the client’s money within ten days of his or her request, you are subject to criminal action. The law is silent as to the meaning of substantial amount of the contracted work. It is, therefore, prudent to plan your projects carefully and to include alternative plans of action, should problems arise that are beyond your control.

3) Completion Date

The contract must include a completion date for the project. Many consumer complaints arise from the contractor’s failure to finish work on time or to stick with a job. Maintaining good communication with a customer will help avoid many complaints.

Many contractors have overlapping jobs. While the framing is going up on one customer’s addition, you may be completing the finish work on another’s kitchen. If you run into trouble with the framing, the finish work just isn’t going to get completed. In the meantime, customers get angry because they don’t know what is going on!

4) Notice of Cancellation

Both copies of the “notice of cancellation” should include the date by which the homeowner may cancel the transaction (i.e., no later than midnight of the third business day after the date of the transaction). Saturday is a business day in Connecticut.

Finally, the contract must be entered into by a registered contractor or salesperson, and contain the name and address of the contractor. Both “notice of cancellation” forms must also contain the contractor’s (i.e., seller’s) name and address.

The 3-Day Cancellation Right

DO NOT VIOLATE THIS CANCELLATION RIGHT. The consumer is not responsible for any work you perform on the property within this three-day cancellation period. The consumer does not have to pay you for this work and can demand that you restore the property to its original condition.

If you are giving an estimate, remember that an estimate is not enough to constitute a legal home improvement contract. The duplicate Notice of Cancellation form attached to the contract must be a complete notice of cancellation rights, printed in a minimum of ten point, boldface type. However, it is a good idea to have this form in triplicate; one copy for you, one copy for the customer to mail in should he or she choose to cancel, and one copy for the customer to keep for his or her files. Always leave two completed forms with the customer. See Appendix B of this handbook for a sample.