In Hawaii, the short answer is no, and stay tuned for the why because it is a whammy.
The greatest reason why you shouldn’t use online forms is that there is no guaranty the form is effective and there is no one there to promise you so. In other words, the form might not protect well your business deals.
The quickest way to have a case against a nonpaying homeowner dismissed from court is to have a form contract missing some crucial element that would make it a binding agreement.
Though in Hawaii there may be some protection for contractors, there are numerous legal requirements for contracts that must also be complied with to carry the making of a contract. Coupled with the necessary considerations of traditional contracts, these legal requirements make it all too easy for Hawaii contractors to miss something. And in Hawaii, a contractor may be subject to fines and professional discipline (having a license suspended, for instance) for failing to comply with strict statutory language governing contracting entities and contractors. It would be folly to trust the creation of a large construction contract to a responsible managing employee (RME), even if the RME is well experienced in contracting. And if, in drafting your agreement, you were to google “construction contract form template” and used the form from the top-ranking Webpage without knowledge of the numerous administrative rules in Hawaii, you would run the risk of using a form that could be later deemed by a court to have no binding effect because formalities were not observed. No agreement, no case, lose money.
For instance, in Hawaii did you know that in all contractor agreements a notice to the homeowner must be given using the exact same language as appears in administrative rules governing contractors in bold face letters? The statute where the notice requirement appears also has a laundry list of requirements for every construction contract. Not all the requirements may be met simply by using a very thoroughly drafted form template because the substance of the contract’s terms and conditions changes with every job. A contractor failing to provide such notice and failing to observe formalities may be subjecting themselves to lost contracts, unrecoverable fees and costs, civil fines and run into practical issues with homeowners that could have been avoided altogether by following the statute and careful legal drafting by a licensed attorney.
A review by this article’s author of the last year of fines imposed by the contractor’s licensing board, as reported on the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affair’s Website, revealed that most civil fines, no matter the degree or nature of the misconduct, were $500. That is a steep price to pay for simply forgetting to place a word-for-word notice in bold type near the signature line of all contractor’s agreements. As a contractor, wouldn’t you like to know what such a notice is required to say? As a homeowner, wouldn’t you like to know that your contractor knows these things or has hired someone who does?
A lawyer, on the hand, can promise you that an agreement will hold up in court. No online form can promise you that. That goes for the forms available for purchase at most office supply stores. They aren’t state-specific and are not guaranteed to be effective in Hawaii – and the peddlers of these forms will be the first to tell you so.
Lastly, it is simply professional to use contracts that have been tailored to fit the needs of each job. For most large jobs, the contract and its exhibits are the guiding star for the project describing scope, timelines for payment and the completion of work, lien rights, etc., and other critical elements. Every contractor should have a licensed attorney they turn to review their contracts for compliance with state construction contract requirements. In addition, a lawyer may be able to offer you insights into drafting that is specific to each contracting subspeciality, and the lawyer may also have knowledge of industry custom and practice worth its weight in gold that is inevitably imparted at no extra cost to the contractor.