Construction Contractors and Your Home Modification Loan FAQ

This page provides frequently asked questions and answers regarding hiring and managing construction contractors and your Way Finders home modification loan.

Why can’t Way Finders recommend a contractor to me?

Way Finders is what’s called the Provider Agency. Provider Agencies are not permitted per program guidelines to recommend specific contractors to applicants and borrowers. This is because Provider Agencies are not equipped to thoroughly screen contractors, and therefore cannot give complete and reliable recommendations. More importantly, you need to make your own assessment of the skills and reliability of the contractor who will be working in your own home.

What can Way Finders help me with?

We provide borrowers access to resources, including a website that provides a list of contractors who perform accessibility modifications. In addition, we may also be able to direct you to previous borrowers who are willing to discuss their experiences. We may also assist you in identifying an architect or other professional who can assist you in developing plans.

We can also help explain the bidding process, review proposals for work to be performed and can advise you whether soliciting additional bids may be prudent. We may also provide sample bid and contract forms.

Are there different types of contractor licenses?

Yes. Any structural work in a home requires a contractor to have a construction supervisor’s license NOT a home improvement license. A construction supervisor license is intended to demonstrate a degree of competency in respect to the provisions of the building code (which establishes criterion ensuring public safety). A construction supervisor must pass an examination in order to receive a license. In contrast, an examination is not required to receive registration as a home improvement contractor (HIC). The HIC registration is intended more as a consumer protection mechanism.

You should keep in mind possession of any license does not guaranty the contractor is competent to do work satisfactory to you. Check a contractor’s references and perhaps see other work he or she has done before signing a contract with them.

My project includes a wheelchair lift or elevator and I need more information on the additional requirements.

Any home modification project that includes the installation of an elevator or wheelchair lift (not stair lifts) must be performed by a person with an elevator mechanic license. Additionally, state law requires these installations to be inspected. Installation of these devices in single family homes must be inspected by the Department of Public Safety upon completion of the installation and then every 5 years, this inspection can be set up through your device maintenance/installation company. Medically necessary devices can receive a reduced inspection fee of $100, an application can be found at www.mass.gov/dps. To ensure the licensed installer properly reflects the reduced inspection fee in their bid, you should apply for the reduced inspection fee as soon as possible

We can provide you with a list of vendors or companies, which we believe have a licensed elevator mechanic. Additionally you may find a suitable vendor by contacting the Massachusetts Elevator Safety Association, www.mesassoc.com, as associate member companies are likely to have licensed installers.

I have received a proposal from a contractor, now what?

You should try to obtain three written bids, if possible, and compare them. Please refer to choosing a Contractor for Your Home Modification for suggestions on how to choose a contractor. Way Finders will review the proposed scope of work to determine what modifications are eligible.

Once you have decided which contractor you wish to work with, you should make sure you have a sufficient written agreement or contract. You should send a copy of the contract to Way Finders.

Once we have received all of the documentation required in your application package, we will draw up the loan documents. The loan amount will be for the cost of the eligible modifications and any recording fees, up to a maximum of $30,000. Way Finders would send the mortgage to be recorded at a Registry of Deeds/Registry District of the Land Court.

Once the mortgage is recorded, Way Finders will be able to request funds from its funding source, CEDAC. Please be aware that CEDAC only cuts checks every other week. Once we have received the loan funds from CEDAC, we may disburse them as anticipated by the agreed upon loan disbursement schedule attached to your Loan Agreement. Please note that it can take up to 4 - 6 weeks until the first disbursement can be made.

When can I tell my contractor to start work?

Your contractor can begin work once the loan documentation is complete and a mortgage is recorded on the property. Way Finders will tell you when this has been done. Make sure, however, that the contractor is not expecting payment before it will be available.

Where circumstances warrant, we may approve the start of work prior to loan closing but after a loan commitment has been made. Please note that although we may approve the start of work, no funds will be disbursed to you or the contractor until the loan documents have been signed and the mortgage has been recorded. If for some reason that does not happen, you will have to find other resources to pay the contractor.

What if the contractor requests money before work has started?

Way Finders may disburse up to one-third of the total contract price prior to the start of work by the contractor, provided that documentation is provided of the actual cost of any material or equipment, which must be ordered in advance of the start of the work. This should also include a statement that addresses the work start date. Remember, though, that it may take four to six weeks after the mortgage is recorded for this first disbursement to happen.

How do I request funds?

There are three ways that you may request funds:

  1. You deliver to Way Finders an invoice from the contractor on their letterhead which details the amount of work completed and any previous payments received on the project;
  2. You may also deliver an invoice from a supplier, such as Home Depot, which details the items purchased or services provided; or
  3. You may also deliver an invoice from the contractor or supplier marked paid or other documentation evidencing that you have used your own funds to pay for the services or supplies.

It is your responsibility to review the work done and all invoices and to approve them by signing the invoices before sending them to Way Finders. Requesting payment means that you approve of the work done to that point. If you have concerns about the work and the contractor has failed to fix them, you should contact Way Finders.

How will the check be made out?

In most cases, Way Finders will send you a two-party check made payable to you and the contractor/supplier. In situation number 3 above, Way Finders may make the check payable directly to you.

Is there a difference between paying a subcontractor and a general contractor?

Yes. In general, your contract should be with the general contractor. Therefore, the general contractor should be responsible for paying any subcontractors. For your own protection it is recommended that you do not directly disburse funds to subcontractors. Please remember, the general contractor has assumed liability by pulling the necessary building permits, certifying their insurance policy and entering into a contract with you. This allows you to deal with only the general contractor. It is the general contractor who will be responsible for the quality of the work done and who will warranty it.

My contractor is about to finish my home modification project, how do I request a final payment?

You should contact Way Finders in order to set up a final inspection. The final payment (10% of the total loan amount) will not be released to you or the contractor until the final inspection has been performed and you have indicated your satisfaction with the modifications.

Remember, Way Finders generally does not use construction specialists to inspect the work. It is up to you to inspect very carefully, to check that all items have been completed and that the workmanship appears satisfactory.

Why should the contractor pull the building permit?

The contractor should pull the building permit because in doing so the contractor assumes responsibility for the project. For example, the contractor is ensuring that the end project conforms to all pertinent codes, laws and ordinances. Additionally, the contractor must pull the permit for you to be eligible for the Guaranty Fund, which is a fund of last resort for collecting unpaid judgments against registered home improvement contractors.

Why is it mandatory for the contractor to provide a copy of liability insurance?

The liability insurance is mandatory because it protects the homeowner should any accidents occur and/or the contractor damages your home during the construction process. If the contractor does not have valid up to date liability insurance the homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover any damages. You may also ask to be named as an Additional Insured on the contractor’s liability insurance.

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