Holding Building Contractors to Their Promises

by Susan Solakian


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This is an excerpt from the new book The Homeowner's Guide to Managing a Renovation: Tough-As-Nails Tactics for Getting the Most from Your Money. Published by Sterling. Reprinted here with permission.

Did you know that you can create a binding agreement without securing the other party's signature? A simple letter that I call a "reiterate-and-confirm letter," something attorneys call a "rebuttable presumption," restates your verbal agreement and asks the other party to notify you if he thinks your written affirmation is not correct. If he doesn't contradict you in writing, you've got an agreement that will stand up in court.

Below is a sample reiterate-and-confirm letter. It consists of a standard introduction and a standard closing paragraph that make this letter a contract. The body of the letter is what sets the terms of the agreement between you and the other party (the scope of work, the cost, and the schedule). It is the way you express the terms of the agreement in the body of this letter that determines whether or not you will get what you want.

NOTE: A telephone response from the contractor is not the same as a written response. If the contractor calls to object to the arrangement you are proposing, remind him to follow up with a letter within five business days or your letter will still constitute the formal agreement.

Sample Reiterate-and-Confirm Letter

FROM:
Property Owner
Mailing Address

DATE

TO:
Contractor
Company Name
Mailing Address

RE: The Renovation of (Project Address)

(The Subject of the Agreement, e.g., Plumbing Leaks)

Dear (Contractor Name),

(Standard Opening) To reiterate and confirm our conversation of (date), the following is for the record:

(Describe the scope of work.) There is a leak in the new plumbing under the house, near the second bathroom.

(Describe when the contractor will take action.) You have promised to bring the plumbing subcontractor back early next week to make a repair.

(State what cost or credit you've agreed to.) There will be no charge for this repair work, because this repair represents a correction of work that is included in the contract.

(Standard Closing) If this is not in accordance with your understanding, please notify me in writing within five business days. In the absence of such notification, this letter will constitute a formal agreement between us.

Sincerely,
Property Owner's Signature
Property Owner's Name
Contact Phone Number


Susan E. Solakian began her construction/renovation career at The Ehrenkrantz Group PC, a commercial architecture firm in Manhattan, where she was responsible for renovating the firm's offices. She soon switched her focus to construction management, landing a job at the third largest construction-consulting firm in the world where, as a project manager, she headed many major renovations.

After finishing a $350 million project, Solakian relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, where she was hired as Rehab Coordinator for the City of Raleigh. In that role, she was responsible for oversight of all residential renovation projects in Raleigh that used public funds, including managing a $2.3 million HUD-funded housing rehab program, providing assistance to 40 to 60 income-qualified homeowners each year. She was responsible for the top to bottom renovation of over 400 homes located in targeted areas of the city, from stately Victorians to 1970s brick ranches, to dilapidated, hand-built bungalows.

In 2001, she started her own business, Renovations Consulting, offering classes, seminars, and private consulting, sponsored by Home Depot, UBuildIt, and others, to private and corporate clients. Her weekend-long Remodeling Master Class gets rave reviews.


The Homeowner's Guide to Managing a Renovation: Tough-As-Nails Tactics for Getting the Most from Your Money by Susan Solakian
Published by Sterling
ISBN 978-1402727542, 288 pages, paperback, $19.95

Available through bookstores or directly from the publisher at www.sterlingpublishing.com

"What the author promises and delivers is an extraordinarily thorough process to managing the remodeling, from hiring a home inspector to uncover potential surprises to succeeding with the final punch list."
-- Booklist (Starred Review)

The Homeowner's Guide to Managing a Renovation will be your guardian angel from the time you make the first list of what you want to change, until you write the final check to the contractor, by providing all of the information and encouragement you need to tackle even the most complex project. In simple language, with hundreds of color photos and even the option to practice your new skills on an entire make-believe project, you will see how careful planning (which costs you nothing) can make your work with the designer less expensive and more productive, and how getting a great design will get you even more than you dreamed of from the contractor, without compromise or dispute.

Learn what you can do before you even meet with the designer that will slash your costs for the remainder of the project. Learn how to find great designers and contractors in your area. Learn how to create enforceable contracts for professional services, and how to create a contract that doesn't require the signature of the other party! Learn what the contractor really wants - it's not just your money. Learn how to ensure that the project gets completed on time and to your standards. Learn what to do if you suspect something is going wrong. Learn all this and much more in the "Homeowner's Guide to Managing a Renovation: Tough as Nails Tactics for Getting the Most from Your Money."

© 2008 by Susan Solakian. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to duplicate or distribute this file as long as the contents are not changed and this copyright notice is intact.

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