HABITAT ANSWERS: The devil is in the details, and it's rarely so apparent as when you're filling out an alteration agreement.
There are three important pieces of information that your alteration agreement should include: a specific deadline for completion, the are conditions for getting an extension, and what the cost will be. Of the three, the time aspect is the one that your co-op may be most likely to penalize you for if you don't comply.
The reason for including a deadline for completion is simple: Without it, renovations could potentially go on forever, aggravating all of the residents of a building. With a specific deadline in place, be prepared for your board to check in with you to make sure that your renovations are proceeding on schedule. It's likely that if your project runs long, without you following the correct procedure for an extension, you will be fined, which will add to your project cost. A good idea — and a clause that's being added to some alteration agreements — is to have your contractor also sign the agreement with the stipulation that if his work runs long, he too will be responsible for any fees incurred.
You should also check and see if the agreement stipulates who is liable for any damages or injuries that may occur during the renovation. These policies vary from building to building, and again, you should consult your contractor to see what insurance he has.
Fees, Fines, Fo, Fum
The last thing to be aware of is also the only thing you shouldn't have to worry about, if you do everything else correctly: Be aware of any fines or fees that your board can charge if the work doesn't go the way you lay out in your agreement. If the construction runs long, if your contractor works hours different from the ones you inform the board of, or if you try deviate from the planned work in any way, you will be responsible for the consequences — and you can't say the board didn't tell you.
Adapted from "The Never-Ending Story" by Bill Morris (Habitat Oct. 2013)
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