When you’re building a home, buying a newly-built home or having repairs done to your existing home or business, you will need to hire a home contractor. The process can be stressful because it is hard to determine who the best choice for your particular project is. Many home and business owners fail to understand that most general contractors don’t require state licensing or training. Local building codes means that these are standards in which the best practices are followed. Many building code inspectors are not licensed and trained to examine a home to ensure it is built safely. Also all electricians, carpenters, heating and air conditioning technicians and masons aren’t always required to undergo testing as well as plumbers and roofers.
When you’re having your home built or remodeled, construction is a liability. There is always a risk that something could go wrong. When or if these thing occurs, the homeowner will want them repairs and without additional costs. If a home was built to an architect’s plans and the builder and workers followed those instructions then the architect is liable. If the general contractor changed any of these instructions then the contractor is liable. When neither wants to pay, many will call their local building department, but it’s important to note that they are never liable. If your contractor doesn’t want to pay, you will have to go to court to get these costs back in a civil lawsuit.
Licensing & Training
In many cities, the only requirements to become licensed as a general contractor are proof of liability insurance and paying a license fee. That’s it. There are no testing requirements. Some of the sub-contracting trades such as electricians do require a test, but only two trades require a state license in many states, roofers and plumbers. Check into the requirements for your particular state before hiring these individuals.
Each municipality is allowed to set their own specific local building codes. It’s important that all of these codes are followed closely so that fines don’t ensue. These codes are typically bare minimum requirements that a worker must do in order to legally build a home in your particular town and/or state. The codes will say nothing in particular about quality of the work or the durability of the home overall.
How Can Homeowners and Business Owners Protect Themselves?
There are many things that every homeowner or business owner should do in terms of due diligence. While these are not foolproof, they do help weed out some of the sub-standard people from the hiring list.
- Request copies of the contractor’s license, their liability insurance policy information and their workman’s compensation insurance policy information. Always double check the information is accurate and active. Also by having this information, a homeowner has the information in hand if a claim needs to be made.
- Make sure that you verify the name, address and business location of the contractor. If they aren’t listed on the Better Business Bureau nor have relatively no Google search results, beware.
- Make sure that you only hire contractors that are members in good standings in professional organizations. These associations generally require testing and experience.
- Always read all quotes, specifications, paperwork and/or quotes thoroughly. If you don’t understand them, never sign them. If necessary, hire a lawyer to read through them and make any necessary changes to protect your home or business. Compare quotes based upon price as well as materials, details, timeline and the scope of the work overall. A contract should define the work, the materials used and other specifics. Who will do the work should be clearly explained in the document. Also make sure that all workers are qualified and experienced and direct employees of the contractor themselves for insurance and workman’s compensation reasons.
- Consider hiring a state-licensed home inspector to check work when the project is done. They will be unbiased and are paid for their expertise.
- Beware of any contractor that uses a P.O. Box as an address.
- Verify a license and make note of the license number. Check with the state contractor licensing board that the number is valid and active.
- Beware of a contractor that demands you pay upfront or in cash. Always have a record of payment.
- Any contractor that will provide you a discount for recommending customers should be avoided too.
- Any contractor that tries to pressure you into signing a contract that you don’t understand, has blank spaces or haven’t read is to be avoided.
- The contractor themselves are responsible for the construction permits.
- Any contractor that acts you to use your home as security for a home improvement loan is a scam.
It is a home or business owner’s responsibility to remain informed.