Choosing The Right Contractor
Checklist for Prescreening Contractors
Hire only Licensed Contractors
Check each contractor’s license status at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling 1-800-321-CSLB (2752)
Get Three References and review past work
Deal with someone whose work is known. Ask friends, neighbors, associates, or family
if they can recommend a contractor. Friends and family may have recently had similar projects completed. If they are satisfied with the results, chances are you will be too. Other good reference sources include local customers, material suppliers, subcontractors, and financial institutions to check whether the contractor is financially responsible. You can also search the Internet for local contractors in your area. Contractors will often have photos of completed jobs online for you to review. If you are working with an architect or real estate agent, ask them for several recommendations as well.
When you have narrowed to 2 or 3 possible contractors, call the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Protection Agency, or the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (804)-367-8500 to see if there have been serious complaints against any of them.
In California, anyone who contracts to perform work on a project that is valued at $500 or more for labor and materials must hold a current, valid license from the CSLB. You can verify the license on-line or call 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
Ask for personal recommendations.
Ask for references--particularly previous customers--from each party. Check the references.
Next you will want to interview the builder. Review your completed plans with each builder, or ask the builders about designing plans for you.
Ask the contractor for referrals and take the time to look at several of the jobs completed by the builder. Look at some of the houses the builder has constructed. Once you are in contact with clients of the contractor, you will want to speak with them without the builder being present. Then ask them a few easy questions:
1) Did the contractor complete the job on time and on budget?
2) Did the home builder return phone calls promptly?
3) Did the contractor resolve all problems in a timely manner?
You will want to take each of the builders to the job so they can be completely familiar with what the job entails. You will want to make sure all the contractors bidding include such things as permits, site preparation including excavation and any other site-specific costs.
Once you receive price quotes from all the builders, you will want to compare them to each other, making sure that they each bid on the same items. If one bid is excessively high or low, it is recommended to contact the builder to review their bid and clarify the difference.
Verify the contractor's insurance coverage.
Ask to see a copy of the certificate of insurance, or ask for the name of the contractor's insurance carrier and agency to verify that the contractor has the insurance.
In California, if a contractor has employees, they're required to carry workers' compensation insurance. The importance of this cannot be overstated. If a worker is injured working on your property and the contractor doesn't have insurance, you could be liable to pay for injuries and rehabilitation. Your homeowner's insurance may or may not cover those costs. You should check with your insurance carrier to make sure the workers' compensation insurance coverage being provided by the contractor is adequate. Learn more from the California Department of Insurance.
Commercial general liability insurance is not required; however, it covers damage to your property. If the contractor does not carry general liability insurance, they should be able to explain how they would cover losses that would ordinarily be covered by insurance. If your contractor damages your property and doesn't carry commercial general liability insurance, you or your insurance policy could end up paying for damages.
A licensed contractor must provide you with information regarding both types of insurance in your written contract.
Upon making a final decision of the contractor, you will want to make sure that the contract not only specifies the start and completion dates, but is inclusive of all work to be done. Insist on some type of late fee or penalty if the completion is delayed past a certain grace period (notwithstanding circumstances beyond the builder's control, such as inclement weather).
Finally, once the contract is executed, make any required deposit payment, and be sure to write your checks as per the schedule (not earlier and not later).