We all have our dream remodelling projects. Maybe it’s as simple as a more modern bathroom, or maybe it’s completely gutting the building down to the studs and starting over. Anyway you slice it, home renovations are big business and anywhere there is big money there are also legal considerations. The simple fact is, a home is not actually a castle but a piece of property subject to numerous laws and regulations. Here are some legal considerations before you start swinging that sledge hammer at your walls.
Can you even do it?
You need to check to see if you can even make any changes to the property. It should go without saying, but tenants that are leasing a property usually don’t have the right to make significant alterations. Additionally, many homeowners’ associations have strict bylaws about what renovations and alterations are allowed to be made. Also, if the renovation is going to change the height or footprint of your home, you may run into zoning issues with your state or municipality. It is worth the extra time and effort to check everything out before any work begins.
Older homes may contain things like lead paint and asbestos. These materials are hazardous on their own, to say nothing of when they are ripped out, smashed around, and improperly disposed of. If your home was built prior to 1978, or if you suspect lead paint or another hazardous material was used in its construction, have it inspected for these and other hazardous materials before you undertake any renovations. Proper removal and disposal may be more expensive, but it is worth the cost to maintain safety and avoid any legal trouble for improper disposal.
Put it in the contract.
A large number of consumer lawsuits involve contractors and their customers. In order to avoid a drawn-out legal battle, be sure to get recommendations for reputable contractors in your area and be very clear about what you want and when you want it. Make sure that the contract includes stipulations for what happens in situations like missed deadlines. Also, avoid “scope creep” and don’t ask the contractor for things not in the contract. If you do think of something you’d like, complete a written change order and make sure both you and the contractor have read and signed it. Many issues are the result of a customer asking for something and then balking at the higher bill.
Keep an eye on the schedule.
One things that really drives up costs (and leads to lawsuits) is having to re-do things. Work with your contractor to establish key milestones for the project and try to stick to them. For example, the contractor should not be hanging sheet rock if the wiring has not been inspected. If this happens, it may need to be removed and re-done.
An unfortunate reality of the industry is that many of the workers are undocumented. If discovered, this could lead to work stoppage or even involve you in a legal matter. Again, get recommendations for reputable contractors and if you suspect something is not quite right, be sure to document it and alert the proper authorities in order to protect yourself.
As always, no article is a substitute for the advice of an experienced real estate or construction attorney. Contact yours before beginning any renovation or remodelling project.
This post was written for Marquette Turner Luxury Homes by Stephen Hachey. Stephen is a Florida foreclosure attorney at http://floridarealestatelawyer.org/ specializing in loan modifications, short sales, foreclosure defense and much more. He is also the owner of his own practice, the Law Offices of Stephen Hachey, PA. This article is for general informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a licensed attorney in your state of residence. For more information on our services, please visit our website at www.floridarealestatelawyer.org/. The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. The author takes full responsibility for the content. Like all blog posts, this is offered for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice.