When you have an electrical or plumbing problem, the last thing you want to do is hire the wrong contractor – a bad contractor can turn an inconvenience into a nightmare.
If you haven’t worked with a contractor before, choosing one when you’re dealing with leaky pipes or faulty wiring might feel overwhelming, especially if you’re in a hurry to have your home repair issues addressed. However, you should choose a contractor carefully because you’ll have to live with their work.
Licensed, Bonded and Insured
Your first step is to make sure any contractors you’re considering are licensed, bonded and insured. Ask for a contractor’s license and insurance policy numbers – if they hesitate to share them, it’s time to move on – and call your state licensure board to verify they are current. You also can check whether the contractor has any past or current complaints against them with the licensure board.
You also want to be sure your contractor’s insurance is up-to-date and includes worker’s compensation – otherwise, if the contractor or their employee is hurt on the job, you may be responsible. A good contractor should be glad to discuss what their insurance covers, and you should be aware of what their insurance will cover and what your homeowner insurance will cover.
Up to Code
When you have work done, even a repair, you likely will need a building permit, which may need to be displayed in a window while work is being completed.
Be wary of a contractor who either tells you they can do the work for cheaper without a permit or asks you to obtain the permit. If the permits are missing or incorrect, you may not be able to have the renovation or repair inspected by the code enforcement officer. That can lead to problems getting your utilities reconnected or selling your home later.
A good contractor knows the local codes and regulations – and the building or code enforcement office should know them. If you’re not sure to where to begin looking for a contractor, ask the building and code enforcement office for recommendations – they are inspecting the work of local contractors regularly.
Understand What You’re Paying For
A contract can never be too detailed when it comes to home repair.
You should have a start and completion date, information on building permits and fees and a line item list of what you are paying for, including materials, equipment rentals if applicable and labor costs. Expect materials to make up approximately 40 percent of the cost of the repair, and you can and should ask the brand and type of material be specified in the contract.
Your contractor also should include information about their liability and worker’s compensation insurance and obtain lien releases from suppliers and subcontractors – it will protect you from liens if your contractor fails to pay their bills. You may even want to ask for financial references from a supplier or banker.
A good contract also should include information about your warranty. Don’t be shy when asking about the extent and length of a warranty – after all, even the best contractor can make a mistake or inadvertently use flawed materials, and you shouldn’t have to live with it. If a contractor is cagey or vague about a warranty, that’s a red flag.
You should be in daily communication with your contractor; trade cell phone numbers and decide on your preferred means of communication.
There are several things that you’ll need to communicate with your contractor about, and they may not be covered by the contract. You’ll need to let your contractors know what bathrooms they may access and where they can park. Do you not allow smoking in your home? You need to tell your contractor.
Items that may or may not be covered in your contract include whether you will need to hire a furniture mover or move furniture yourself – many contractors won’t move furniture because it opens them up to liability if something is broken – and what you can expect to be cleaned up at the end of each day and at the conclusion of the work.
Hiring a contractor is an involved and complex process, but it’s one you want to do right.
With HomeServe, contractors are vetted before they arrive at your door – each one has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau and maintains a high customer satisfaction rating. To learn more, visit www.HomeServeUSA.com.