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AV Education on RHT

Building Your Dream Theater:
Step 2 - Homeowner's Guide to Construction Contracts

Written by Brian Kahn

After you have selected the main players (installer, interior designer, calibrator, acoustician) for your construction team as described in Part One of this series of articles, you will need to negotiate the contracts that will govern their work for you. It is an understatement to say negotiating and drafting the contract documents is extremely important to the success of any home project be it an addition, a remodel or a dedicated home theater. The contracts will set forth the guidelines that outline everyone’s responsibilities and scope of work. In most cases with home theaters, the contracts come from an installer or retail firm and everything is, of course, negotiable. In the event that someone does not do what they are supposed to do, the written contract will provide guidance to the available remedies. Not that you are looking to sue anyone. You are, in fact, looking for the exact opposite – a deal between you and the people doing the work on your home or home theater system that leaves you happy with the results you want at the right price.

While contracts can, and most likely should, be signed by everyone hired to work on your house, this article will focus on your home theater installer and integrator. However, many of these concepts are relevant to other trades like a general contractor, electrician, plumber, etc. Any of your subs, including your contractor, architect or designer, may provide you with a “standard” or form contract for you to sign. Don’t just sign it blindly without careful consideration, as you will be bound to all of the terms and conditions set forth in the contract.

Standard Contracts
The form contracts used by many architects and designers have been drafted by or on behalf of industry associations. These contracts may appear to be evenhanded and fair, but they usually contain clauses that favor the contractor. You are not bound to use the industry form contract and should not be afraid to ask for changes to it. The question then becomes: what do you look for in a contract? Negotiating and drafting the contracts is definitely a good time to have an attorney involved. A relatively small amount of money spent on legal fees for reviewing or drafting a contract can save money, time and frustration later on. Most attorneys want you to sign on with an open checkbook philosophy. I recommend you dictate to your attorney, if you choose to use one in this situation, the amount of time you want him or her to look over such documents and or to make phone calls. Five hundred dollars, even by big city standards, should be more than enough to have someone look over the proposed contract and make sure you are entering into a fair deal. Inside that two hours, you might also get a phone call or two to finalize any little details between you and your contractors. You don’t want your attorney to be a pit bull about everything, but if your contractor isn’t willing to budge on things that irk you or your attorney, you are getting bad vibes on the first date that might suggest that you might want to interview other contractors. Despite the building boom right now, there are always other good contractors.

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