Historical archive Covering the May 12, 2000 "St. Nazianz Storm" and Recovery  

Contracts and Contractors

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Most contractors involved in home improvements are honest, reliable and skilled, but some are not. To get a building permit, contractors must show proof they have paid for workersí compensation coverage, unemployment insurance, and minimum levels of liability insurance (or failing that, post a bond). Consumers should ask to see the contractorís registration card. If a contractor canít produce the registration, it can mean trouble for the consumer.

Here are some suggestions on how to find the best contractor for the job.

1. Decide in advance what the job will involve. Draw sketches, clip pictures, etc. to show to prospective contractors.

2. Get more than one estimate. Make sure all contractors are bidding on exactly the same work. Make sure the contractor actually views the job site rather than giving an estimate over the phone. Be leery of a contractor who gives an extremely low estimate.

3. When checking out a contractor, ask for the names of recent and past customers and call them to see if they are satisfied. Did the contractor show up on time and clean up afterward? Did the contractor perform follow-up service on warranties?

4. To find out if complaints have been filed against a contractor or to report an apparent violation of Wisconsinís home improvement laws, contact the toll free hotline of the Bureau of Consumer Protection: (800) 422-7128.



Youíve gotten several estimates, done your background checking, and have made the final decision on who will get your home improvement contract. Here are some tips on getting the best protection possible from the contract.

1. Always get a written contract. Get this before any work is done. The contract should contain the company name and street address (not just a P.O. Box number).

2. The contract should list, very specifically, everything to be done, all products to be used and dates when the work will be done.

3. If any payment is required before the work is done, a written contract is required by law. The consumer should demand that this be done if the contractor does not offer.

4. When any payment is made, and especially when final payment is made, get lien waiver certificates from the contractor. This will prevent a subcontractor or material supplier from putting a lien on the home where the work was done if the contractor does not pay these bills.

5. Get all guarantees in writing. Never sign a completion certificate until all work is done as specified in the contract and to your satisfaction.


Bureau of Consumer Protection 
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection

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Pages within this site were last updated 05/26/2001 at 11:10 AM.  All information copyright 2000-2004, all rights reserved.