Years ago, I lived in a house in Evanston that was built in 1878. The “pipes” were made out of tar and paper and were sloped back toward our house. On multiple occasions, disgusting sewage filled up our basement, costing us a ton of money and causing us to have to sue the scumbag previous owners who failed to disclose knowledge of these problems. It sucked.
Having repairs or remodeling done in your home can put you in a position for someone to take advantage of you. Usually when you are hiring someone for these jobs, you are contracting for work in an area that is someone else’s expertise, and not your own, and it is usually quite expensive. It can be challenging to compare the costs of different materials, and to know what you really need and what you do not. Some repairs are not even so easy to check out when finished, like a roof repair.
Fortunately, Illinois has laws to protect consumers in this area, to help even out the playing field when you are hiring someone for the job. The laws set out some steps that contractors must take when they are selling you their services, or else they subject themselves to possible penalties, and a potential lawsuit.
If you are contracting for work that is going to be more than $1,000, then you should be given a written contract that both of you will sign, detailing the job. It should provide the total cost of the work, as particularly as possible, including all materials. Also, the contractor’s business name and street address should be listed.
Illinois law also requires the contractor to give you a pamphlet which includes information to help you protect your rights. The pamphlet sets out what you are entitled to under the law, to help prevent problems in the job in your home. For example:
• You should determine in advance, whether the contractor has insurance which will cover the job.
• You generally have 3 business days to cancel the contract if the sale was made in your home.
• The details of how you are to pay for the job should be included in your contract. This would be a complete schedule of all payments that will be due, and the method of payment.
• Your contract should also provide the conditions that might allow either of you to terminate the contract, and what your responsibilities would be to the other if this happens.
When you are given the pamphlet, the contractor should have you sign that you in fact received it. Also, before you sign the contract for the work, Illinois law requires the contractor to tell you if there is a provision that limits your rights to bring a lawsuit in court if you have a claim. These contracts can sometimes require you to submit your claims to arbitration, instead of a court trial. Or they may require you to waive a trial in front of a jury. If either of these provisions is in the contract, you must be told that fact, so you can decide whether to continue.
The protections that are provided by Illinois law are designed to help avoid many problems that could typically come up. If a contractor does not follow the law, there could be penalties brought by the state or local agencies against him or her. In addition, you could have a lawsuit for actual harm that you suffered from the actions of the contractor.
Frequently these cases involve substandard work that caused you to spend extra money to fix. Whether the contractor used bad materials, or whether the job was executed badly, you could be out the money both to re-do the work, and for any damage caused by the original job. A bad roof replacement, for example, could cost you the price of another new roof, and also the money to replace any items in your home that may have been damaged by the faulty roof that was installed.
The catch to all of these strong laws is that is usually costs more money to hire an attorney than it does to just pay for these repairs out of your own pocket. You can try to sue for lawyer fees, but you are still paying up front. Many of these low life contractors file bankruptcy on one business and open up as another one the next week.
So while the law protects you, it’s not uncommon to be in the winning position and often lose.
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