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Summer 2018  Volume 14, Number 2        


9 Tips for Hiring a Home Repair Contractor

Due diligence before you hire a contractor can save you time and money in the long run.

Finding a reliable, professional contractor can sometimes be a challenge. If you can get a personal recommendation from family, friends or neighbors, that’s a great start. But you still need to be careful. Here are some guidelines to follow when choosing a contractor to work in or on your home.

  1. Be especially cautious of contractors who solicit business door-to-door or via cold calls. Also, be wary of anyone who uses hard sell tactics, such as offering a discount only if you sign up now or telling you that the deal will cost more later if you don't buy today.
  2. Make sure the estimate is in writing — and if you and the contractor agreed to certain special features, modifications, or there are instructions that deviate from the norm for similar projects, make sure that is in writing, too. The estimate should break down the costs, including materials and labor, line by line. If there's a charge for an estimate, don't deal with that contractor.
  3. Along with the estimate, get the names and phone numbers of two previous customers who used the contractor and contact them. Get additional estimates from two other contractors and let them know you are competitively bidding the job out.
  4. Keep in mind when evaluating contractors and their estimates that the contractor with the lowest price may not necessarily be your best choice. Make sure the materials to be used are of acceptable quality and rely on the evaluations of previous customers to determine what quality of workmanship to expect.
  5. Google potential contractors for evaluations of their work that might appear on Yelp, Angie's List or similar websites. Check out whether anyone has filed complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau:
  6. Make sure the contractor you choose is licensed, properly insured and bonded. Ask for certificates of insurance for workers compensation and general liability policies. When a company is bonded, that is a guarantee that the contractor will perform the services specified in the contract. If the contractor fails to perform as specified, you can report the problem to the agent that issued the bond and receive compensation. Contractor bonds can protect homeowners from shoddy work, project abandonment, damage to the property and any unpaid supply or labor charges.

    However, the first thing to do if you have problems with a contractor is to contact the licensing agency, typically the state’s Contractors License Board. They will take your complaint and help mediate the situation.

    If it's a larger job involving a general contractor who is using sub-contractors and suppliers, you will want to protect your property from a possible lien. Before making the final payment, ask the general contractor to provide lien waivers from suppliers and subcontractors. Lien waivers state that the labor or supplies have been paid for and state that the supplier or contractor has given up the right to file a future lien against your property.
  7. The standard practice for the first payment on a job before starting is 33 percent of the total estimated cost of a job. Don't deal with contractors who want the entire sum up front.
  8. After choosing a contractor, get a copy of the contract and don’t sign anything until you have reviewed it. Make sure you agree with the start and finish dates of the work, when payments are due and make sure the contractor provides a warranty, guaranteeing the quality of the work performed.

    The contract should contain a hold harmless clause in your favor. The contractor should agree to hold you harmless in the event anything is done during the job to create liability for you. For instance, if a pool contractor damages a neighbor’s property, the contractor should indemnify you against any responsibility for that damage.
  9. Have a knowledgeable friend, relative, or attorney review the contract before you sign it.

[Our thanks to IRMI for background on this article.]

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In this issue:

This Just In...

9 Tips for Hiring a Home Repair Contractor

Are Your Jewelry Items Insured for Their True Value?

How to Avoid Becoming a Fake Accident Victim

How to Protect Your Home-Based Business



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