Know your Rights

As you plan for your home repair/improvement project, it is important to ask the right questions in order to protect your investment. The below information is designed to help protect yourself and minimize the possibility of misunderstanding as you choose a contractor and finalize the legal agreement for the work to be performed.

What to Know About a Contract:

Information provided by the State of Illinois – Consumer Rights Pamphlet
(Your contractor is required to provide one for you.)

  1. Get all estimates in writing
  2. Do not be induced into signing a contract by high-pressure sales tactics.
  3. Never sign a contract with blank spaces or one you do not fully understand. If you are financing the work through a loan, do not sign the contract until your financing has been approved.
  4. REMEMBER, you have 3 business days to cancel any contract if the sale is made at your home. The contractor can not deprive you of this right by initiating work, selling your contract to a lender, or any other tactic.
  5. If the contractor does business under a name other than the contractor’s real name, the business must either be incorporated or registered under the Assumed Business Name Act. Check with the Secretary of State to see if the business has registered under this Act.
  6. Homeowners should check with local and county units of government to determine if permits or inspections are required.
  7. Determine whether the contractor will guarantee his or her work and products. (These guarantees should be in writing.)
  8. Determine whether the contractor has the proper insurance.
  9. Do not sign a certificate of completion to make your final payment until the work is done to your satisfaction.
  10. Remember, homeowners should know who provides supplies and labor for work performed on your home. Suppliers and subcontractors have a right to file a lien against your property if the general contractor fails to pay them. To protect your property, request lien waivers from the general contractor.

Contract Basics:

Learn about some of the Basics when reviewing a contract from someone.

  1. Any contract should contain the contractor’s full name, address and telephone number. Note: Illinois law requires the contractor provide change of name notification and/or business address change between the time of beginning and completing work.
  2. The contract should have a description of the work to be performed.
  3. The contract should state the start date and estimated completion date.
  4. The total cost for the work to be performed should be obvious.
  5. A listed schedule and method of payment should be listed including down payment, subsequent payments and final payment. Make sure to read the fine print to understand if there is interest or penalties for late payment.
  6. There should be a provision stating the grounds for termination of the contract by either party. Contractors must be paid for work completed at the time of cancellation. If the contractor fails to start or complete work within the contracted time period, the homeowner may cancel and may be entitled to a refund of any down payment or other payments made towards the work, upon written demand by certified mail.

Protect Yourself from Fraud:

Protect Yourself from Fraud.

  1. Be suspicious of door-to-door salespersons with no local connections that offer to do repair work at substantially lower prices than others.
  2. Be suspicious of solicitations that only list a phone number and P.O. box number.
  3. Be suspicious of contractors that fail to provide customer references on request.
  4. Don’t allow people into your home without verifying who they are and you are sure they are affiliated with the company you are expecting. Call the company to verify employment if you are unsure.
  5. Be suspicious of demands for cash payment or to have checks made out to a person other than the owner or company name.
  6. Don’t allow the contractor to drive you to the bank to withdraw funds to pay for work.

If you think you have been defrauded by a contractor or have any questions, please bring it to the attention of the State’s Attorney or Illinois Attorney Generals Office.

Attorney General’s Toll-Free Numbers:

Carbondale 800-243-0607
Springfield 800-243-0618
Chicago 800-386-5438
TTY 800-964-3013