Post authored by Bill Coates
Have you experienced a time when some home-repair projects needed to be taken care of? Sometimes they’re too big or take too much time for you to tackle yourself: fading paint, falling gutters, or a big pine tree that makes you a little fearful when the wind blows. So you call a couple of recommended contractors and receive some estimates with everything nicely detailed: price, insurance information and license number. As you’re wondering if you can get it done cheaper, presto! A pickup pulls up in your driveway and a guy asks what projects you need help with. You fill him in and end up negotiating a price 30 percent less than your other estimates. What a stroke of luck! Or…was it?
What is the true cost of your options? There are a few things you should consider before making your decision, aside from the final price. There are a variety of benefits of using a licensed and insured contractor:
- A written bid by a licensed, insured contractor ensures your work will be done correctly and according to code.
- Mishaps like damage to your property or your neighbor’s, or the contractor’s employee sustains injury while on your property, should be covered under your contractor’s insurance policy.
- If you happen to have a dispute, you can go to the state licensing agency for support and will have the benefit of the written contract.
Just because Mr. Low Price was the cheapest does not mean he is the best option. Many times, these low-cost contractors are less expensive because they do not have the expense of carrying insurance, or they may have never taken or passed the licensing exams. There are a variety of negative consequences that can come from your contractor being unlicensed and uninsured:
- If a worker is injured on your property, they can sue you for damages.
- If your pine tree ends up on your neighbor’s home, you are liable for the damages.
- If your contractor hires another contractor to install your new gutters and does not pay him, that outside contractor can put a lien on your home for his costs even though you paid the contractor you hired.
- Uninsured, unlicensed contractors may not complete a project according to code. This can present a serious safety issue, especially with plumbing or electrical work. This can also create more work later to correct the problem if you plan to sell your home – code violations will be documented by an inspector and will need to be corrected prior to selling.
- Sometimes, they will ask for cash payments or checks made out to them personally, as opposed to a company name, in order to avoid taxes.
Before you begin your next home project, be sure to think things through when hiring help. Always check a contractor’s references and confirm they are licensed and insured. Don’t be afraid to ask them for a certificate of insurance that shows the coverages they have and the limits they are insured for; look for general liability, workers’ compensation, and completed operations coverage (in case a problem shows up after the work is done). Make sure they are willing to give you a written contract describing the work to be done, materials to be used, and price. Ask them if they are willing to accept a check or credit card for payment so you both have a copy for your records. A good indicator of a reputable person is their business card. It should include their contact information with a physical address and business phone number. Avoid those with a P.O. box and cell phone number only.
Your home is your biggest investment so be sure to protect it, and yourself, when having it worked on. What other tips do you have for finding a quality contractor?