Home Improvement Project? Get It in Writing.

With nearly every kind of agreement, it’s wise to put it in writing. This goes for home improvement projects, as well. In fact, California law requires that all residential home improvement projects worth more than $500 be reduced to writing. There are numerous other requirements, too, from font size to certain language.


Whether you’re a homeowner or a contractor, putting the terms of your agreement in writing can protect you in the event of a dispute down the road. No matter how well you think you know the other party, disagreements can arise when you least expect them. A well-written contract can prevent confusion and stop misunderstandings from blossoming into costly litigation. At a minimum, your home improvement project should detail what work will be performed, when it will take place, how much it will cost, and what types of materials will be used.


Additionally, contracts should be written in plain language, include clear terms, and explain the homeowners’ legal rights and remedies.

A Homeowner’s Right to Cancel

The law affords significant protection to consumers and homeowners are no exception. In most cases, a homeowner who hires a contractor has the right to cancel the contract within three business after executing the agreement. This protects the homeowner from breach of contract, fraud, mistake, and unconscionability.

Some Home Improvement Oral Contracts Enforced

Although the law is well-settled that contracts over $500 must be in writing, there are some cases in which California courts have enforced oral home improvement contracts.


In Hinerfeld-Ward, Inc. v. Lipian, a 2010 case, the court ruled that an oral home improvement contract was enforceable against the homeowners. In that case, the owners had hired a contractor to do extensive work that took place over two years. As the work unfolded, the homeowners approved and paid 19 invoices. When they received the next invoice, they disputed certain charges and refused to pay any more money to the contractor. By the time the dispute reached the court, the homeowners owed the contractor more than $200,000. The court based its decision to enforce the contract on several factors, including the long-term nature of the parties’ relationship, the relative sophistication of the homeowners, and the fact that the homeowners had previously paid 19 invoices.


The result in Lipian demonstrates the importance of written home improvement contracts. No matter which side of the agreement you’re on, a written contract can safeguard against expensive and time-consuming disputes.

California Eviction and Real Estate Law

Attorney Kirkman J. Hoffman has more than 20 years’ experience representing commercial and residential landlords, owners, and property managers in Silicon Valley and the surrounding regions. Contact the team at Hoffman Law Group today at (408) 241-9620 to discuss your real estate or eviction matter.


This website has been prepared by Hoffman Law Group, APC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.