Should I insist on getting change orders from my contractor in writing, or is a verbal agreement OK?
By law, your Contractor is obligated to prepare and have you approve and sign any change orders in writing for work not specified in the original contract. If change orders or “Extra charges” as they are also called are performed with only a verbal agreement, the Contractor is the only one taking the risk because without a written agreement, you are not obligated to pay them anything. Actually, the property owner may even have the right to sue the Contractor for damages simply because the work performed wasn’t spelled out in writing.
Consumers are very well protected in this area. Sure, if you have a good relationship with your Contractor and you request a $20 extra, chances are that a verbal agreement will go down without a hitch. But any extra over a few dollars is worth putting in writing to avoid miscommunication. It is especially important when the extra charge is for an unforeseen condition. This happens often in remodeling because although we may be good, we cannot see through walls.
Your Contractor should immediately inform you of any extra work caused by unforeseen conditions and write it up with a complete description of work to be performed and a price for you to sign before the extra work is started. Most Contractors are more than fair when charging for unforeseen extras because it was a surprise to both parties. If you think your Contractor is taking advantage of the situation and overcharging you, it is your right to stop the job and investigate the charges. Our change orders are treated as an actual “Addendum” to the contract so that all the terms and conditions of the contract will also apply to the change order. This simplifies the document and makes it easier for the homeowner to read and understand.
Surprises are no fun in remodeling, but if your Contractor has a good system for change orders it can lessen the pain. Ask your Contractor how they handle change orders before you sign a remodeling contract.
Answered by: Patrick Benkowski, CR
President – Roadrunner Custom Remodeling Inc.