A home improvement contract is an agreement between a vendor and a homeowner. It refers to work done to the homeowner's existing residence for the purpose of expanding living space or otherwise improving the appearance or real value of the home. Such contracts may be written or verbal and are often legally binding.
These types of agreements may also be called remodeling contracts. They differ from building contracts, which usually refer to new construction projects; a home improvement contract generally refers to additional work done on an existing structure. The term building contract may, however, be properly used in the case of a free-standing or attached structural addition to an existing home, such as adding on a garage.
Examples of projects that may entail a home improvement contract include bathroom and kitchen remodels and installation of new flooring. Other common uses for such agreements include plumbing, roofing, and window replacement. Painting a home or building a new deck may also require a contract.
Common items included on a home improvement contract include the name and contact information for both parties; a full description of the work to be performed, often called a scope of work; payment terms; and a price. It may also include information on dispute resolution, the time frame for completion, and specific exclusions. Typically, both parties sign a written agreement to indicate acceptance of the terms and conditions.
The consequences of violating the terms of a home improvement contract vary significantly. In some cases, the agreement may state explicitly that the violating party will owe the other party money or other compensation. In others, the wronged party must seek civil justice in a court of law.
Courts of law also view contracts differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It is not uncommon for a homeowner to present a breech of contract suit against a vendor if the homeowner is dissatisfied with the work, if the vendor fails to complete the work, or if the vendor otherwise fails to meet the terms and conditions agreed upon. A vendor who has performed all work according to the agreement may also sue a homeowner if the homeowner fails to pay for the work.
In some jurisdictions, only written contracts are valid, while others give equal weight to verbal contracts if the terms can be reasonably proven. In some locales, even written contracts are considered invalid unless signed by both parties. In most cases, the entire agreement is considered invalid if any part is in violation of a jurisdiction's laws.