What should we be checking when interviewing Contractor's?
You’ve been ghosted. A contractor you hired to do work took your money and then disappeared without completing the job, worst yet they did a lousy job and now you need to hire someone to come in and fix it. When I talk to clients that have experienced difficulties with their Remodeling Contractor I am always surprised to find out that they moved forward with these Contractors without any detailed plans or written contracts. They have no license numbers, no permits and often times other than a cell phone can’t reach the Contractor. Most didn’t realize that an estimate to perform work is not an appropriate contract even if the work is detailed. The old adage about “not knowing what you don’t know” runs true in too many of these situations. It seems that until you find your self in this position it doesn’t occur that there are some very important documents that at a minimum should have been shared with you before proceeding.
Over the years I have found several common denominators when projects go bad, they are:
The Contractor was found based on a recommendation of a friend or because they knew them socially giving you a false feeling of confidence
They did not ask for Contractor License Information and then verify it
They did not ask for Insurance Coverage information and verify.
They all made contact with at least one past customers who had a positive experience but most was for smaller scale projects such as handyman work, tile repair, and basic carpentry
None of these items caused the ultimate difficulties but in hindsight taking a few simple steps could help to have prevented this experience from getting out of hand.
Don’t Move Forward Without Checking these (3) Things
The first step after speaking with a Contractor whom you are considering should be to check on three important things;
Make sure they have the proper State Contractor’s License for the work you want done. In our state, Virginia, Contractors will obtain either a Class A Build, Class B, or Class C license. For Remodeling projects without structural modifications you should require a minimum of a Class B License. If only Cosmetic improvements such as paint, wallpaper, tile work a Class C is workable. Remember without the appropriate state license no permits can be requested. (more on permitting in another post) Verify the license with the State.
Make sure they have the proper insurance coverage. Workers Compensation Coverage is for your protection as much as it is for theirs. In the event that an accident happens on the your property it protects you against the liability. That includes one of their workers or subcontractors getting hurt. Failure to verify this leaves you at great risk. You will want to make sure that they have Worker’s Compensation Insurance (required by all local jurisdictions in order to legally perform work on residential properties ) covering all who participate. In addition, General Liability Coverage and Commerical Auto protects the contractor financially from many unforeseen risks, without that protection the worst case scenario is it could cause a solvent business to close but in the short term it could create project delays or even abandonment.
Confirm that you will be receiving detailed plans and specifications for all work that is to be completed and request to review a copy of their standard contract forms. Rarely does a Remodeler/ Contractor abandon a project when there is a legal binding contract in place. There is lots of information on the clauses that should be present in each remodel agreement, those clauses are for the protection of the Remodeling Company and the Homeowner. Most Homeowners don’t realize that the Plans and Specifications are very bit a part of a legally binding contract. If you don’t have those then there is no agreement as to the work that is to be done or the materials that are to be used.
In my years of working with Contractor’s on projects I have found that when they respect the rules that are established they also respect you, your home, and the finished product they deliver. Getting the above information is more important than all the customer reviews or referrals.
To verify a Contractor’s License: http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/