*GALLAGHER URGES HOMEOWNERS TO DO HOMEWORK, READ FINE PRINT BEFORE SIGNING HOME REPAIR CONTRACT*
TALLAHASSEE—As many homeowners across the state are rebuilding their homes, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is alerting consumers to be wary of entering into contracts for repairs too quickly before they understand clearly what their obligations are regarding monthly payments and interest rates. Consumers may be offered a contract in which they agree to make monthly payments for the home repairs and, in some cases, a mortgage may be placed against the property as security.
Before you sign a home repair contract, check out the company by calling the following numbers.
• Contact the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 1-850-487-1395 to determine if the contractor is properly licensed and if there are any complaints filed against the contractor.
• Contact the Office of Financial Regulation, Department of Financial Services, at 1-800-342-2762 to determine if the home improvement company is properly licensed to enter into an installment contract and if there are any complaints filed against the company.
The following are important reminders for homeowners to remember when entering a contract for home repairs:
• YOU are entitled to a copy of the contract at the time that you sign it.
• YOU must keep a copy of your contract to protect your legal rights.
• YOU must never sign the contract in blank – Write N/A on any blank line.
• YOU are responsible for payments on your home improvement contract where a mortgage is being used as the security. Failure to make your payments may result in foreclosure of your property.
• YOUR contract must include the name of the home improvement finance seller.
Homeowners also should know:
• YOUR contract must be signed by the homeowner and contractor.
• YOUR contract must include a notice of the right to rescind the contract within 3 business days.
• YOUR contract must include the approximate dates the work will begin and end.
• YOUR contract must include the amount financed, down payment amount and any difference between those two.
• YOUR contract must detail the insurance coverage and benefits (if purchased), official fees, survey and permit charges.
• YOUR contract must include the premiums paid for group credit life or other insurance, and should state which party is to procure the insurance (if purchased).
• YOUR contract should not have a provision for a power of attorney.
Upon completion of the repairs, the homeowner and contractor must sign a certificate stating all work has been completed.
CAUTION: Do not sign a certificate unless all work has been performed. Ask your contractor to furnish a release of liens against the property. Keep a copy of the completion certificate and lien release to protect your rights.
Depending on the length and terms of your home improvement contract, finance charges can be as high as 22% APR. You may want to contact FEMA's disaster assistance program at 1-800-621-3362 for lower interest rates.
For more information on how to protect your hard-earned dollars, log on to www.yourmoneyyourlife.com. Consumers can also contact the Florida Department of Financial Services' helpline toll-free at 1-800-342-2762.
# # #