By Nicole Seckman Jilek
It is that time of year when many homeowners are hiring contractors to make improvements and repairs to their homes. We have all heard those horror stories of half-finished work and unscrupulous contractors. What ten steps should you take to make sure your job goes smoothly?
1. References. Obtain and check references. Who has worked with this contractor before, and what were his/her experiences? Check to see if the contractor is a member of the Better Business Bureau and has an acceptable rating.
2. Quotes. Obtain quotes from more than one contractor. Compare not only the prices for the work but the scope of the work.
3. Research. Ask prospective contractors questions to verify that this is the person or company you want to hire. Ask questions about the contractor’s work experience, past projects and upcoming schedule. Ask to see some completed jobs.
4. License. Confirm your prospective contractor is appropriately licensed with the city you live in. Not all work requires a license, but to the extent your work requires a licensed contractor, confirm your contractor has the appropriate credentials.
5. Permit. If your project requires a construction permit from the city or another jurisdiction, confirm the contractor will obtain that permit and coordinate any inspections and approvals required by the permit. At the end of the day, it is the homeowner who is ultimately responsible for obtaining any permits and ensuring that the work complies with any applicable building codes or city ordinances.
6. Contract. Obtain a written contract that contains all of the project details for the work to be provided by the contractor and the price for the included work. A good contract will include the scope of the work, start and finish dates, price, payment dates and deadlines, and warranties.
7. Change Orders. Any changes to your written contract should also be in writing. The “Change Order” should include what is being changed or added from the original contract and what price will be charged (or discounted) for the change.
8. Insurance. Ask for evidence that your contractor is insured, including its certificates of insurance, and then verify that your contractor and its subcontractors have adequate insurance coverage. Discuss your potential project with your own insurance agent to confirm whether you need any additional coverage to protect your interests. Keep in mind, even with proper insurance coverage, your contractor’s insurance will not cover poor workmanship.
9. Warranty. Does your contractor provide an express warranty? Investigate whether the contractor will warrant its work and fix it, if needed, for a period after the project is completed. Unless disclaimed in writing, Nebraska law states that every contractor provides an implied warranty of workmanlike performance that lasts at least four years and may last up to ten years. In addition to the implied warranty, some contractors may also provide an express warranty.
10. Document. Take notes of your conversations with your contractor. Keep detailed documentation and records of the progression of work while the contractor is performing the work. Keep a paper trail of the entire project, including the original bid, the contract, any change orders, and copies of communications discussing or changing the work or project.
When hiring a home contractor, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Contact Nicole Jilek at 402.392.1250 to help you navigate contracts, understand your options and avoid litigation.