Building a new home, remodeling your present home or even changing out your hot water heater, air conditioning unit or painting your home is a major investment. As you begin planning to build or improve your home there are important steps you should take to ensure that your investment is a wise one and that you are protected from loss or disappointment.
5 Tips When Hiring a Contractor
1. Get Estimates
Get estimates from at least 3 different contractors for the same job to compare prices. Remember the cost of materials and quality of materials will affect the bid. A low bid based on inferior materials may not be any bargain, so consider more than the price alone. Be sure the estimate specifies the total price, the terms of payment, the kind of materials to be used and the expected time it will take to complete the job
Be aware of special prices because of left over materials, other jobs in the neighborhood or discounts if you agree to get the other customer.
2. Always Ask for the Contractors License
Working with an unlicensed builder, or contractor is done at your own risk!
Florida Law dictates that contractors advertising in various newspapers and the phone books MUST have their contractor license number in the advertisement. If a person who is advertising states licensed and insured in their advertisement but fails to put their contractor license in the advertisement, there is a good chance that they are not properly licensed. Contractor licenses are comprised of a combination of letters and numbers. (Examples are: CGC, CCC, CFC, CAC, RR, RA ER, EC…..).
Make sure that the contractor you choose is licensed by the State of Florida or your local county government. To verify if a contractor is licensed with the State of Florida, visit MYFLORIDALICENSE.com or call (850) 487-1395.
To verify if a contractor requires a local license, contact your local building department.
(see Helpful Links below)
3. Check References
Ask your contractor for references, and follow up with those references. You can also check to see if the contractor has a website and look for testimonials. References can be past customers or subcontractors that they do business with.
4. Get It In Writing
When you have selected a contractor, get all agreements in writing. A written agreement will make sure that there are no misunderstandings about the work or the terms of the contract.
Read your contract very carefully, including warranty information on any products used to strengthen your home. While it is not required, it is often a good idea to have an attorney review the contract and any other forms before you sign them, especially if a large sum of money is involved. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you do not understand. Ask for any changes or modifications before you sign the contract.
Get a contract that includes:
- The company name, address, phone number and the full name and license number of the builder/contractor and the salesperson.
- Detailed job specification, which include a description (brand names, colors, grades, styles and model numbers) of materials, a list of all costs spelled out clearly, and any architects or engineers drawings, which are required.
- Start and completion dates. These should allow for any reasonable delays, but should include a clause allowing you to withhold payment if work slows down for no apparent reason.
- A statement that all required building permits and variances will be obtained by the contractor before work is begun. The building permit is for your protection. An inspector will make sure the finished job meets all codes and safety standards and make the contractor responsible for corrections.
- A guarantee that the contractor carries liability insurance and has Workers Compensation coverage, in case of accidents on the job.
- A statement of warranty on the work. Be sure it tells if labor and materials are guaranteed, and for how long. A statement that cleanup will be done by the contractor should be allowed.
- A provision for credits if there are large amounts of materials left over. On the other hand, you should be prepared to pay for extra materials if the project takes more than anticipated. Your builder should provide you with a description of these extra costs in writing, so that there are no surprises on your final bill.
- The terms of payment should be clearly stated in the contract. Never pay for the entire job in advance. Make a deposit when work begins to cover materials and startup cost. Pay by check to the company name and always get a receipt. Make scheduled payments as work progresses.
- A right to cancel clause. If you are solicited and have signed the contract in your home, you have three days to cancel the contract if you change your mind. You must send the contractor a registered letter stating you wish to cancel. If everything in the agreement is satisfactory, both the contractor and the homeowner must sign and date the contract. Any changes or revisions must be dated and initialed by both parties.
Be sure that the contractor gives you a copy of the contract, with any changes noted.
5. Things to Beware of
- Make sure that the products used meet code requirements in your area and all appropriate building permits have been pulled.
- An unlicensed contractor will usually ask you to obtain the permit or will advise you that a permit is not required. When in doubt, call your local building department.
- An unlicensed contractor cannot legally file a lien against your property.
- Homeowners face penalties for Hiring Unlicensed Contractors. According to Florida Law, consumers who knowingly hire unlicensed construction contractors could face a fine of up to $5,000.00. (Chapter 455.228)
- Complaints against unlicensed contractors should be reported to the appropriate licensing agency and the Sheriff’s Office. They are not a civil matter.
If you have problems you should first try to resolve them with the contractor before making the final payment. You may contact the local building inspector for assistance in resolving workmanship and code violations.
Small Claims Court is another alternative if the dispute involves a sum within their jurisdiction.
At MSBIA, our mission is to ensure a successful environment for the building industry and to advocate for a better community. We are here to assist and educate
the consumer. Your safety is our first concern.