HIRING A CONTRACTOR
Before You Hire Read This
Weekly, my phone rings with calls from residents within our community asking about contractors, checking on licenses, asking for referrals and guidance. Needless to day there is no shortage of contractor horror stories relating to both licensed and unlicensed contractors. We are going to give a refresher course today with helpful hints on how to protect yourself. Licensing is not necessarily a measure of competence, skill, proficiency and ability. However, being licensed does involve financial obligations to maintain a license along with the appropriate insurance and bonding, all avenues of protection for the homeowner. Many of our local licensed contractors find themselves competing with unlicensed contractors because working outside of the regulation box costs a lot less, therefore unlicensed contractors are able to underbid jobs because they do not pay taxes, they do not have proper insurance, they possibly work out of their truck and they perform work outside the scope of a qualified licensed contractor.
Not all unlicensed contractors do poor quality work, and not all poor quality work is done by unlicensed contractors. While there are certainly honest and competent contractors in our area, the industry is unfortunately plagued with con artists and scams. It is essentially up to you to protect yourself when hiring. Be diligent in your screening process. Here are some red flags to watch for:
Unsolicited phone calls. Although some reputable contractors market their services this way, it is more often than not used by unscrupulous companies. Be wary of bargain prices and contractors claiming they are doing a job in your neighborhood and they have left over materials.
No verifiable address or phone number. Be cautious of contracts that have a post office box, no street address or use a cell phone number.
Business cards left on doors saying the contractor was in the neighborhood and they noticed damaged on your home. Just this past week, I came home from work and in my front door was a business card from a contractor. The note on the card said they noticed hail damage on my roof and I would be able to obtain double insurance money because the damage was an act of God and they would give me a discount on my roof replacement. The company was not licensed, and more than likely many homeowners would not have known that. I do not have hail damage on my roof, as I had a roof inspection a little over one month ago. This company was reported to the Arizona Registrar of Contractors and they have been sent a Cease and Desist letter.
Large down payment’s. If a contractor asks for too much money up front or insists on cash beware. Do not advance money for work not yet completed.
If a contractor asks you to pull the building permit – be ware! They are doing this possibly because they are unlicensed and possibly they are having financial issues.
Unbalanced bids. It is critical when obtaining bids you evaluate the essential requirements of the work. Bids with extreme variations or where there is obvious unbalancing should be thoroughly evaluated prior to signing a contract.
Keep in mind, anyone can say they are licensed – MAKE THE CONTRACTOR PROVES IT! Ask for a copy of their Arizona State License, or call YCCA and we can verify and confirm. This is protection for you. Make sure you know what the expiration date is of their license. In Arizona, a license must be renewed every 2 years. Make sure the contractor has liability insurance and worker comp insurance.
Don’t be a victim. YCCA is conscientious and wants to protect you and better our industry. The cost of buying and owning a home is the biggest investment made by most of us in our lifetime. In these economic times, there are many individuals who try to hold themselves out as licensed contractors or handymen performing outside their scope of work. Many internet referral sources and marketing companies to not verify license status, they leave it up to the consumer. YCCA walks you through this verification and we will assist you whenever you want to hire a contractor. You can trust our reviews.
Also, it is important to know that buying product on line or buying product from one store and then contracting the installation through someone else could void all warranties. It is important to make sure that installers are licensed. So make sure the list of installers are background checked, legally documented and supervised.
Ending our column on a scorching hot note and admitting openly to several hundred thousand readers of the Daily Courier, I should practice on what I counsel and on the advice our column shares with our readers. Last week I wrote about National Fire Prevention Week and pubic awareness to prevent fires and stated that National statistics indicate that most home fires start in the kitchen and are caused by individuals not paying as close attention as they should be. Cooking is the #1 cause of home fires. Last Saturday morning, waking up at 5:30, opening the blinds and windows to a beautiful morning my stomach was telling me it was time for a big bowl of rolled oats with blueberries. I set to work, mixing the water and oats, then into the sauce pan and on the stove at a low simmer. The morning was just beautiful so out to survey the yard I go, searching out new weeds that sprouted overnight, talking to the quail family of 16 that have taken up residency in my yard, looking at new plant growth and taking to the birds and trees. All of a sudden, the high pitched shrill and the sound that I said we can all live with, that of a smoke alarm is cutting through the morning silence and blaring through my open doors and windows. I race into the kitchen and run into a dense fog of smoke billowing from the sauce pan. I completely forgot about the rolled oats simmering on the stove top. I would now call them charred rolled oats and thank goodness for smoke alarms. Who knows what would have happened, but I can tell you the small sauce pan with a serving of rolled oats, sure did create panic, smoke and heat in the kitchen. Again, smoke alarms always sound for a reason. By the way, a week later and I am still attempting to remove charred, over-cooked, burnt rolled oats from my favorite sauce pan.