Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 16, 2013

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A construction contract is a binding agreement that specifies the terms and conditions for service and payment of the renovation or remodel. Both homeowner and builder have individual interests to protect, so be sure your contract contains the following important provisions.

Essential Provisions Builder Should Include in the Construction Contract

The greatest hit the builder takes when working on a project is unanticipated building costs. Surprises can occur such as a boulder where the basement was meant to be or termite damage in the old studs. Whatever the situation, if you are not careful, you will end up paying for these costs yourself. To make sure this does not happen, place a section in the construction contract that specifies all unanticipated building costs are to be paid by the homeowner.

Another problem the builder may encounter are homeowner changes that are not architecturally possible. Sometimes the homeowner will not take “no” for an answer and will refuse payment to a builder who is unable to make the changes. Protect yourself from this by placing a section in the construction contract stating that changes to the original design will be permitted only if they are architecturally possible.

Essential Provisions Homeowner Should Include in the Construction Contract

The homeowner is in an especially vulnerable position in a construction contract. If you are disatisfied with the work and refuse to pay, the contractor can place a lien on your home causing damage to its overall value. Prevent this by placing a section in the contract stating if any renovations are not done completely or correctly, you have the right to withold payment.

Another common problem for the homeowner is a lien placed by subcontractors or materials’ suppliers. In some states, subcontractors and materials’ suppliers are allowed by law to place a “mechanic’s lien” on your property before they begin work or deliver materials. The lien will remain until work is completed and the subcontractor or supplier is paid. In states where the law does not provide for “mechanics liens”, your contract should include two parts to protect your interest. First, draft a section specifying that you may withhold payment if a subcontractor or materials supplier places a lien on your property. Second, state that subcontractors and materials’ suppliers may not place liens on your property if you have already paid the contractor in full. This forces the subcontractors and materials’ suppliers to sue the contractor instead of you.