Remodeling
If the job requires financing, shop around for the best terms on the financing, including the interest rate, terms of the payout and finance charges. As with any financing agreement, you should calculate the entire cost of interest and charges over the term of the loan.

A home improvement company may offer financing, but this is not necessarily the best option even though it may seem easy to arrange the financing and the work contract at the same time. Be aware that some contractors will have you sign a credit contract to pay a certain price for the work plus a finance charge then immediately sell the right to collect on the contract for 20–50 percent less than the contract price. That usually means you could have gotten the work done for 20–50 percent less by paying cash or arranging financing yourself.

If you are asked to sign a credit-check application, read the form carefully and make sure it does not bind you to anything. Make sure it really is a credit check and not a contract. If you do not understand everything in the document, do not sign it until you have had someone else explain it to you.

MOLD REMEDIATION
Not all water and mold damage is covered by your residential property insurance policy. Most of the homeowners insurance policies sold in California are known as HO-A policies. In general, HO-A policies only cover sudden and accidental water leaks and do not cover damage resulting from continuous or repeated leakage. Many do not cover remediation of mold; those that do generally have a cap on coverage. The other principal type of policy, commonly offered in California in the past, is referred to as HO-B. HO-B policies pay for the full replacement cost of the structure of your home except for items specifically excluded.

Some homeowners who have filed claims for mold or water damage later experience difficulty in renewing or obtaining new insurance coverage for their homes. Contact the California Department of Insurance (www.insurance.ca.gov) for possible assistance if you have difficulty finding an insurer. In general, your insurer must begin an investigation within 15 days after you file a written claim. The company may ask you for more information and then has another 15 days after you send the information before it must accept or reject the claim. If the company agrees to pay the claim, it must do so within five days. If the company rejects the claim, it must give you the reasons in writing.

It is common for an insurance settlement check to be made out to both the homeowner and the mortgage company. Some mortgage companies will endorse the check to the homeowner, leaving the homeowner to arrange for remediation. Otherwise the lender usually uses the insurance checks to pay the contractor, with an inspector monitoring the work and releasing payments. Consult with your mortgage company about how involved it will become with the remediation work. If the company oversees the work, you should still understand who is responsible for ensuring the job is done properly and the extent of your liability. Remain active in this process.

Remediation is more than just repairing damage caused by mold. It involves the process of evaluating the situation before repair work begins. It also involves removing and cleaning items contaminated with mold, treating potentially affected areas, and ensuring that mold does not reoccur.

All nonexempt mold assessors and remediators must be licensed by the Contractors State License Board (www.cslb.ca.gov). A person may hold both licenses but may not do both jobs on the same project. In addition, a person may not own an interest in both firms that do the assessment and the remediation on the same project. Remediators must keep a record of all jobs they did during the last three years. This record must include before and after photos of the contamination scene, the written contract for remediation and all job-related invoices. The remediator is required to give the homeowner a copy of all photos included in the project record.

Property owners should keep copies of the mold assessment, remediation contract, remediation certificate, photos and other related materials on file. If owner sells the property, he or she must give the buyer a copy of each remediation certificate issued on the property.

The rules do not apply to the following actions when not done specifically as part of a mold assessment or remediation:
  • Routine cleaning
  • Real estate inspections
  • Repair or replacement of plumbing, ventilation, heating and air conditioning, electrical systems, air ducts or appliances
  • Use of construction materials during the building phase of raising a structure

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (www.dca.ca.gov) also accepts complaints against mold assessors and mold-remediation contractors, including matters related to warranties. You also may want to discuss the matter with a private attorney.

WORKING WITH REMODELING PROFESSIONALS
Before work begins, ask your remodeling contractor what inconveniences may occur while the project is under way and plan for them accordingly. Be sure your contractor is aware of vacations or special events so that he or she may schedule their job-site time appropriately.

The following are other points to think about:
  • Consider moving personal property from construction areas and declare all work zones off-limits to children and pets.
  • Be sure to put all changes in writing if your remodeling project is modified while work is being done. Both parties should sign the amendment.
  • Keep a job file including contract, plans, specifications, invoices, change orders and all correspondence with the contractor.
  • Request that a contractor’s Affidavit of Final Release be provided to you at the time you make final payment and a final waiver of mechanic’s lien. This is your assurance that you will not be liable for any third-party claims for nonpayment of materials or subcontractors.

Determining the Scope of the Project
Depending on your needs and the size or complexity of your intended remodeling project, there are several different options for you to explore before finalizing your plans. Building a home involves many different skilled professionals. As you learn about the process, it’s important to know the roles that key professionals play. Here is a brief summary of job titles and descriptions in the home-building process.

   
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