Five Things You Need to Know Before Hiring a Contractor

If you are repairing or upgrading your home, these five tips can help protect you against the most common contractor mistakes. Especially after catastrophic weather events like hurricanes or tornadoes, working with contractors can be especially challenging.

Here are five things you should know to help you hire a reputable contractor so you can avoid becoming the victim of an unscrupulous service provider.

  • Never pay your contractor up front. Sometimes contractors insist on hefty down payments, pocket your money and disappear. According to the Better Business Bureau, this is the most frequent contractor fraud encountered. Although you may have legal recourse, very often the unscrupulous contractor is long gone by the time officials become involved. While it may sound reasonable that a contractor requires some money up front to purchase equipment, a reputable contractor should have arrangements with suppliers. The contractor should not expect you to act as the supplier; you are a customer. Insist on a payment schedule based on work completed. Never prepay more than 10 percent of the job cost up front, experts recommend. Then pay only after you have thoroughly checked the contractor’s references, insurance status and contracting license.
  • Insist on a written contract. Before work begins, obtain a contract that details the work to be completed, who pulls permits, and start and completion dates. Make sure the contract includes language allowing you to opt out of the agreement if your service provider fails to comply with the contract terms.
  • Insist on a warranty for the work. Any reputable contractor guarantees the work he or she performs. Contractors usually offer two types of warranties: warranties against material defects and warranties against workmanship errors. Material defects may include a gas lamp that fails to ignite or a pipe that cracks once installed. Workmanship errors include problems like windows leaking after installation or failing to run electrical wires correctly. Warranties generally last one year from the date of your last payment. If you do encounter problems, never try to fix them yourself, because you may void your warranty. Put your request in writing to your contractor. If possible, give the vendor 30 days to make the repair. Chances are, he or she will be working on another home and may not be able to complete your repair immediately.
  • Know whom you allow into your home. Especially after catastrophes, contractors move from one state to another to find work. You cannot always depend on the subcontractors or the laborers your vendor may hire. Ensure your contractor performs background checks on all employees and subcontractors. It is always a good idea to check references and hire only contractors who thoroughly scrutinize their employees and subcontractors before they hire them. We want to protect our most precious commodity — our family. We never want to learn too late that someone with a shady background is working around our family members.
  • Require proof of insurance. If you do not insist on proof of insurance from contractors who work on your home, several problems can occur. Not only can you find you have little recourse for faulty workmanship, if someone working on your home is injured on your property, you may find your own homeowner’s insurance policy defending you against a claim. This is especially true of the “handyman” type of repair where there is often no insurance coverage. Insist that your contractor furnish you with a certificate of insurance, then check with the agent listed on the certificate to ensure its authenticity. While unusual, phony certificates of insurance do exist and cause many problems post-loss when unwary homeowners try to collect for problems.

Dealing with Contractors is Rarely Simple

After a loss, choosing and managing contractors is never easy. Particularly when faced with catastrophic regional losses, good contractors and solid building materials are in short supply. Frontline® Homeowners Insurance offers services beyond most insurance carriers.


Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.