Three Things You Want on Your Home Improvement Contract

by Joy Lanzaro

The California State Licensing Board (CSLB) wants consumers to know that all home improvement contracts are required to contain certain language. If you aren’t aware of this prerequisite, the CSLB’s website has plenty of information that will get you acquainted with the elements of a proper contract. In addition, you can prevent stress and conflict during a construction project by tactfully requesting that your contract contain the following three elements:

A payment schedule with a task-by-task breakdown. The easier it is for you to read and understand your contract, the better. If the payment schedule is broken down by “percentage of job completed,” ask for a task-by-task breakdown instead so you can verify the work that has actually been done.

A date of commencement and date of completion. It’s important to make sure your contractor commits to both a start and finish date, but it’s also important to forgive them for uncontrollable delays. Any change to the scope of work should be handled with a “change order,” which identifies the type of change, how much it will impact the project cost and what it will do to the timeline.  Some contracts provide the consumer with a credit of $100 per day if the project goes over schedule from delays that are under the contractor’s control.

Lien releases. Following every progress payment, ask for a lien release form—it reduces the amount of lien that can be imposed by the contractor by the proportion of the work paid for and completed. You can read more about the different types of lien releases at