When you are ready to do repairs or improvements to your home, the best way to find a good contractor is to ask your friends and neighbors who they have used that they were satisfied with. We can also make recommendations for you, and so can your realtor. But if you’re searching for a contractor by any other method, be careful. A warning bell should sound in your head if you encounter any of the following points when interviewing a potential contractor:
- A contractor whose business card says only “licensed and insured.” A local painter that has these words on his business card once laughingly told us “Yeah, it means I have a driver’s license and truck insurance!” Real licensed contractors are required by the State of Florida to list their license number on their business card and other advertising. You can verify licensing by visiting the State of Florida licensing website at www.myfloridalicense.com This website also allows you check on any complaints filed with the state against the contractor.
- A contractor that appears at your door with a pitch about how he’s doing another job in the neighborhood and wants to offer you a bargain price because he has left-over materials or a last-minute cancellation on another job.
- A contractor who has no business address listed on his business card and the phone number is a cell phone. Where do you find him if there’s a problem after the job is done? Not all contractors have an office, but they should at least be able to give you a home address and phone number that you can verify in the phone book.
- A contractor who can’t--or won’t--give you names, addresses, and phone numbers of satisfied customers in your area that you can actually call and talk to.
- A contractor who promises to do your job “at cost” but will not provide a specific price or, at least, a guaranteed maximum amount.
- A contractor that provides a Workmen’s Compensation exemption form instead of a Workmen’s Compensation Certificate of Insurance. The exemption is perfectly legal but applies only to the one person listed on the form. Sometimes an unscrupulous contractor will show you an exemption in his name but send other people to do the actual work. Workmen’s Compensation Insurance covers workers for injuries they may sustain while working on your home--and guarantees that they will not sue you for their injuries. Your contractor is required by law to carry this insurance on anyone he employs to do your work that does not have an exemption card.
- A contractor who uses any high-pressure sales tactics, or threatens to rescind a “special price” if you don’t sign a contract on the spot.
One final note: we recommend that you get several recommendations and interview at least two candidates for any major home-improvement project.
Don’t simply take the recommendation of someone whose judgment you trust, including us. A few years ago we referred a customer to a small remodeling contractor that we knew well and received a call a couple of months later that they were very unhappy with him. Sloppy work, not showing up each day, and not finishing on the agreed timetable were all part of the list of complaints. As it turned out the builder was going through a divorce and his personal turmoil spilled over into his working day.
Needless to say, that contractor is no longer on our list. Our customer said she sensed something was amiss when she first interviewed him but proceeded based on our recommendation. Trusting a combination of your personal instincts and good recommendations from friends when evaluating contractors is your best bet.