Every construction project deserves a written contract. For residential work, 31 states and the District of Columbia require a written agreement.
But what about contract changes? Is a written change order required every time you do extra work?
Was there ever a construction project that went exactly as planned?
More often, you’re going to have a surprise, something unexpected – like a mistake in the plans or some site condition that requires extra work. Anything can go wrong on a job. And the result is nearly always the same – extra time and higher cost. No contractor is immune from surprises. But it’s easy to limit the damage when a surprise happens.
I’m old enough to remember when the building code was a slim little volume -- slipped easily into the back pocket of my overalls. Not true now. The code comes in 15 flavors, has thousands of pages and carries a price tag to match. The International Residential Code by itself is well over $100, whether on paper or by download. That’s OK, I suppose. The International Code Council claims they publish the “highest quality codes.” Maybe so. But I have a problem with what happens next.
Residential contracting is a highly regulated industry. To stay in business, contractors have to comply with state and federal law. That’s not easy, at least partly because new laws are piled on every year. Right now, legislatures in twelve states are considering bills that would affect home builders and home improvement contractors. Nearly all of these bills add to your cost of doing business or risk of making a mistake.
Here’s my state-by-state rundown of residential contracting bills introduced in the last few months. Expect many of these bills to become law before too long.
Most construction contractors have a favorite agreement they use again and again. “My contract worked fine on my last job. It’s a good choice for my next job.”
I don’t necessarily agree. But I understand the logic. You don’t have time to negotiate contract terms on every job. You’re a builder, not a lawyer.
If that’s how you feel, OK. I’m not going to confuse you with the facts. But I’ll offer one point on which all can agree. If you have only one contract, make sure it’s legal. Too often, it’s not. Using a bad contract again and again is like walking a tightrope. Eventually you’re headed for a spill.
Losses from the Moore, OK tornado run into the billions of dollars. Over 12,000 homes have been seriously damaged or destroyed. Healing that loss will take years.
But unlike hurricane Sandy, most losses from the Oklahoma tornado will be covered by insurance. If you’re planning to do insurance repair work in Oklahoma, there’s some new law you need to understand. Oklahoma Statutes Title 59 § 1151.21 became effective in August 2011. Here’s your checklist.