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Hiring a Contractor

hiring a contractor

Planning a home improvement job or need a repair? Finding a reliable contractor to do the job can be a task in itself.  Hiring the wrong contractor can end up costing you, not to mention the time and hassle of having the work corrected. Before you hire a contractor, check out these basic tips to help you hire the right contractor.

Selecting a Contractor

Getting references from people you know and trust is a great source to find a contractor. You may be able to take a look at the work done and ask questions about their experience with the contractor. You can also use handy resources like our BCA Contractor Link Program to locate a reliable business for your project.

No matter where your lead comes from, always do your research on the business or contractor. Only hire a licensed contractor. In California, if the project is more than $500 the contractor must have an active license with the Contractor State License Board. You can call the CSLB at 800-321-CSLB (2751) or check their website to verify the licensing information. Check out the reputation of the business by reading reviews and complaints. This can give you a good idea of what to expect if you hire them for your project.

Before Getting Started

Get Bids

Shop around and get at least three written estimates to compare. The old saying, “You get what you pay for” can ring true in cases of home improvement.  Keep in mind that the lowest bid may not always be the best choice. Ask the contractor to include the list of materials necessary for the job in the estimate.

Ask Questions

From the start communication will be a key factor in getting the job done. Make sure to ask questions and do your own research. Some important questions to consider are:

  • Do you have experience with projects like mine?
  • Do you have references?
  • Will my project require a permit and if so who is responsible for obtaining the necessary permits?
  • What type of insurance do you carry?
  • Will you hire subcontractors for the project?
  • What is your payment schedule?

Be upfront and honest upfront about your budget so that the contractor is aware of what you can afford. Depending on the cost and complexity of the project, you may have to complete the work in phases.

Check the Contract

Always get a written contract and DO NOT sign it until you fully understand the terms. The contract needs to include:

  • the contractor’s name, contact information including address and phone number, license number.
  • the name of the involved parties.
  • estimated start and completion date.
  • total cost.
  • payment schedule and arrangements.
  • project description and terms.
  • how change orders will be handled.
  • warranty information.
  • the right to cancel.
  • any promises made regarding the project.

Check with your local authority for specific laws pertaining to home improvement contracts. Keep the contract and all paperwork in a safe place and refer to it should any questions or problems arise.

Paying the Contractor

Never pay with cash. If the contractor insists that you pay in cash, it is probably a scam. Some states limit the amount a contractor can be paid for a down payment. In California, you should never pay more than 10 down or $1000, whichever is less. Pay by check, money order, or credit card and keep records of all payments. Don’t make the final payment or sign a release until you are satisfied with the project and all subcontractors and suppliers are paid.

Handling Problems

If you encounter a problem, speak with your contact first. Try to resolve the matter directly with the contractor. Calmly inform them of the issues and what resolution you believe is acceptable. If you are unable to resolve the matter, contact BCA and file a complaint. You can also seek help from state and local protection agencies.

Did you know that through BCA’s Contractor Link Program you can find a reliable contractor to match your home improvement needs? Come on over to our website to try it out and let us know what you think.

About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.