Renovating your home is one of the most expensive things you’ll ever do. Therefore, you need to make sure you do it right.
When you hire a contractor to renovate your home, you expect them to do the job correctly and in a timely manner. You’re also trusting them with your deposit money and access to your home. For these reasons, you must do your homework before hiring a contractor. This means performing a background check, checking references, and verifying their license.
A background check looks into a person’s employment history, education, criminal record, social activity, credit history, traffic records, and current and prior addresses. Essentially, it allows you to verify that a contractor is who they say they are. In doing so, you gain the confidence you need to trust this person with your home’s renovation. To perform a background check, you should use a background check service like Check People, which allows you to find people by first name, last name, and phone number.
You will also want to find out if your contractor has had any complaints listed against them. Your state or county office should be able to tell you if there have been complaints lodged against your contractor. You should also inquire with the Better Business Bureau and your state and county consumer protection offices. When asking about complaints, you should ask about complaints listed under both the company’s name and the owner’s name. This is essential because bad contractors will often change company names to obscure their history.
Additionally, you will want to verify that your contractor has the proper insurance. If you do business with an uninsured contractor and something goes wrong, you could end up having to pay for it. Therefore, your contractor should have personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Make sure to ask to see these insurance certificates and verify that they’re current.
To perform a reference check, you should start by asking your contractor for the names, contact information, and addresses of three clients they’ve done work for. You will then want to contact these former clients to find out how their jobs went. You should make sure to ask about several things, such as:
- Was the project completed on time?
- Did the contractor complete the project according to the client’s specifications?
- What percentage of a deposit were they required to put down?
- Were the workers courteous?
In addition to speaking with former clients, you should also ask if you can see the work done. Ask the references if you can come by to see the work or if they would be willing to provide photographs. Photographs that come directly from former clients are more likely to be authentic representations of the work as a bad contractor can always doctor photos, so they look better.
Your contractor must be licensed. An unlicensed contractor doesn’t have to adhere to building codes, so they might cut corners. Furthermore, if an unlicensed contractor gets hurt while performing a job on your property, you could be liable.
When asking about a license, don’t just take the contractor’s word for it. Instead, you need to ask to see the physical license card, and then you need to call your state to confirm that the license is legit.
Additionally, you should not accept a license that is from out of state or county. This is because local law will only protect you if the contractor is licensed to work in your jurisdiction. That being said, some counties and states do have reciprocity agreements with their neighboring governments. However, you need to make sure your state has certified, in writing, that your contractor can work there.
Some signs that your contractor may be unlicensed include:
- They neglect to pull construction permits or ask you to do it for them. If you pull the construction permit, then you are assuming liability for the project, including any mistakes they may make.
- They rush you by saying that if you act now, you’ll get a special price.
- They only provide a P.O. box address or a cell phone number. This could indicate that they don’t have roots in the community and plan to move on once people start complaining.
- They ask for the majority of money upfront.
If you’re going to entrust a great deal of money and access to a contractor, it’s essential that you know as much about them as possible before doing so. You need to run a background check to ensure nothing unsavory comes up in their criminal or employment history. You should also check with former clients to ensure their jobs went smoothly and the clients were satisfied. Lastly, you need to verify that they’re licensed to ensure that you’re not liable if something happens.