Remodeling
Buying a House and Making it a Home
While house hunting in New York City (NYC), you and your spouse have found the perfect home. It’s well-situated close to a high-rated school district, it’s within a decent commute to your work and it has a nice pool and landscaped backyard that really made a lasting impression. The home will require some remodeling, but it’s not enough to stop you from moving in, and it’s available for immediate occupancy. Find out more in this section about the best ways to find a remodeling contractor, the questions to ask when interviewing a contractor and what to include in the remodeling contract. Also find out which remodeling projects in the NYC region provide the best return on investment.

Under New York law, home improvement is broadly defined as “the construction, repair, replacement, remodeling, alteration, conversion, rehabilitation, renovation, modernization, improvement, or addition to any land or building, or that portion thereof which is used or designed to be used as a residence or dwelling place and shall include but not be limited to the construction, erection, replacement, or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, terraces, patios, landscaping, fences, porches, garages, fallout shelters, basements, and other improvements to structures or upon land which is adjacent to a dwelling house.” Home improvement does include the construction performed with respect to a new home or building.

According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) (www.nari.org), the remodeling market is a $275 billion industry and is expected to continue to experience significant growth. It is estimated that more than 1 million homes per year undergo major renovation or remodeling. In NYC, there are many professional builders and remodelers to select from, and most are members of either the Building Industry Association of New York City (BIANYC), the New York State Builders Association (NYSBA) and/or the National Association of Home Builders, organizations that have approximately 200,000 members combined.

WORKING WITH CONTRACTORS IN NEW YORK
New York City (NYC) has a sizable amount of regulations relating to home improvement contractors to protect consumers against contractors’ deceptive and fraudulent practices. However, the requirements go beyond the prohibition of certain unlawful acts and impose a number of precise requirements that all home improvement contractors must obey.

One such requirement is that all contractors who work and do business in New York must be licensed to solicit, sell or perform home improvement services. The NYC Department of Buildings handles the issuing of general contractor license whereas the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs issues all home improvement licenses. Home improvement contractors are also required to have a home improvement salesperson’s license, which is obtained by the Department of Consumer Affairs as well. In addition, the home improvement contractor must be registered in the municipality where the work is performed and have all the proper insurance coverage (i.e., liability, workmen’s comp and disability) at all times.

New York requires contracts that exceed $500 to be in writing and signed by both parties. In addition, the contract must be legible and in plain language and clearly describe other documents that are to be incorporated into the contract. The contractor must provide the owner with a copy of the written contract before any work is performed. The contract must contain certain information, including the name, address, telephone number and license number of the contractor; the estimated dates when the work will begin and be substantially completed; the contingencies that would materially change the approximate completion date; a description of the work to be done, the materials to be provided to the owner and the agreed-upon consideration for the work and materials. The contract also must inform the customer that by law, he has three days to cancel a contract.

Regulations also prohibit home improvement contractors from engaging in certain acts, such as deviating from the plans or specifications or terms of the contract without the written consent of the homeowner; making a substantial misrepresentation or false promise to induce a homeowner to enter into the contract; or making false statements in connection with advertising their services. Moreover, the regulations further require that a contractor provide written notice to the homeowner that he may cancel the contract at any time prior to midnight of the third night after either the contract was executed or such notice was provided, whichever is later. If a contractor engages in any such prohibited acts, he may be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to imprisonment of not more than one year or a penalty not to exceed $1,000.

CONTRACTOR SELECTION
At this point, you’ve had a chance to review the improvements and additions you’re interested in making to your home. Now, you need to begin the contractor selection process, which is the most important decision in a remodeling project. Nearly half of all projects signed by a remodeling contractor are the result of client referrals. An additional 22 percent of jobs are the result of word-of-mouth referrals. By following these guidelines, you will be better prepared to make an informed decision that best suits your needs.

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