CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has reminded Eastern Panhandle residents to make sure they draft and sign a contract with a contractor before starting a home improvement project.

“The Attorney General’s Eastern Panhandle Office in Martinsburg has received a lot of calls recently from consumers who hire a contractor for a project, but do not enter into a written contract first,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Many consumers in the Eastern Panhandle and elsewhere don’t know that a written contract is required when hiring a contractor for home improvement projects costing $250 or more.

"The contract protects both you and the company doing the work. When it is in writing, both sides know what the expectations are, what the cost will be and when payments will be made.”

Morrisey said Legislative Rule Title 142, Series 5, pertains to the prevention of unfair or deceptive acts or practices in home improvement transactions. This rule requires a written contract for any job of $250 or more that includes:

• The contractor’s name, address, and telephone number.

• A description in “plain language” of all goods and services purchased,

• The contract price, which must include all credit or financing information, as well as be calculated on a “cost plus” basis that is clearly set forth, along with the calculation method and a good faith estimate of the eventual contract price,

• An approximate completion date, and,

• The consumer’s right to cancel the contract within three business days.

"While entering into a written contract may seem burdensome to some, it is very helpful when there is a disagreement between two parties and our Office must mediate a contractor complaint,” Morrisey said. “When there is no written contract, it is very difficult to determine what happened, and it ends up being a factual dispute between the consumer and the contractor.”

Writing up a contract can be easy and does not require a lawyer. Contracts should be signed and dated by both the consumer and the contractor before any work begins.

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