How Well Do You Know Your Contractor?

By Amy Streifel
A couple years ago, I was in desperate need of a contractor. As you may know, they are not easy to come by these days. They are generally booked out so far in advance, you have to be booking months ahead of time. I had a project I just needed to get done. It was the removal of a building and possibly putting up another in its place. Every day I sent messages and made calls to contractors, even into the neighboring states. Finally I got a bite. A gentleman from Minnesota answered my ad and could start in a week. I was beyond excited. Over the phone we didn't go into a lot of detail, but he was cheaper than anticipated and available so I hired him. I told my husband at the time and his question was, what are his qualifications. I thought about it, "well, he said he's a contractor and has lots of experience". Looking back I am kicking myself for not verifying that information. A week later, true to his word, he pulled into my yard. It should have been a red flag that he pulled up in a camper, but I didn't question it. I showed him the big barn that needed to be demolished and asked where his equipment was. He proceeded to hold up a single hammer………
He wasn't getting paid by the hour so I didn't ask any more questions. He started his work that day with his single hammer and made little progress. The next day when I questioned why he had not left my property all night, he informed me he would live in his camper in my yard until the job was done. This should have been another red flag. Feeling slightly uncomfortable but optimistic, my family just made the best of it. After a month, we joked he was part of the family. It took him a good month to take down 1/3 of the barn. I was beginning to get worried he wouldn't finish the job. A couple of times I saw him fall through floor boards. I panicked and asked to see his contract. There was no contract. That was also concerning. One day, I got home from work and our contractor was MIA. Camper was gone along with some good lumber. It was in that moment I thought about all the red flags. The barn was a mess and only partially done. My yard was a mess of lumber he had been pulling off. Thankfully I had not yet paid him. Needless to say, it was a lesson well learned. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. If you are entrusting someone to come into your home and to treat the job with the respect it deserves, make sure that person is reliable. And most importantly…..a real contractor.
In a typical homeowner policy, the contractor’s work is not a covered loss. Making sure your contractor is licensed and insured is very important! At NuLine we insure many contractors of all different trades so we know first hand the types of things that can happen. We did have an insured who used a contractor to put in a patio door. The contractor did not install it correctly and now there are issues of leaking and damage to flooring. Unfortunately his home policy will not cover this. He would need to go back to the contractor in this situation. It can turn costly if the contractor doesn’t have insurance and isn’t willing to make it right!
Do’s & Don’ts of Hiring a Contractor:
Þ DO: Require a contract and understand it.
Þ Don’t: Forget to ask for references in the area.
Þ Do: Only work with licensed contractors.
Þ Don’t: Rush into repairs or hire the 1st contractor that comes along.
Þ Do: Ask for a copy of their insurance.
Þ Don’t: Pay until the work is complete and you are satisfied.