Ah, summertime, and the living is easy. Perfect for sitting in the shade out back with a cold drink. You may even decide this is the perfect time to finally add that deck, enlarge the patio for cookouts, or put in that new landscaping with a couple of strategically placed trees perfect for a comfortable hammock.
But then the nightmare stories of friends and neighbors intrude. Those landscaping contractors who proved trees weren’t the only things shady. The day laborer whose total disregard for the safety of himself or others became a liability nightmare. And the friend who forever replaced Tim of “Home Improvement” as the perfect reason not to become a “do-it-yourself” by rolling that rented backhoe over on himself.
Let’s assume neither a lack of time nor expertise has you bypassing the do-it-yourself option for using a contractor. You could wade into that home improvement project only to find work left undone, safety precautions nonexistent, and an “insured and bonded” contractor actually means he’s a part-time notary with a car insurance policy. Thus, here are a few risk management tips courtesy of the Better Business Bureau and Davis Dyer Max:
- Estimates, estimates, estimates. Consider at least three contractors and get estimates in writing. Be certain all estimates clearly comply with job specifications, quality of materials, labor and time needed for project completion. Be clear on pricing and never assume the lowest estimate is necessarily the best.
- References, references, references. Ask for them, call them, go by and see the work.
- Research, research, research. Check with the Better Business Bureau for business and complaint history, contractor licensing offices to verify licensing and permits, and their insurance agency to verify coverage.
- Contract, contract, contract. Never work purely with oral agreements. A contract will establish firm requirements for a proper job, completion benchmarks, lien filings and/or release, payment schedules (never pay full price in advance) and what constitutes proper completion of work (inspections and a local building ordinance compliance visit).
- Certificates, certificates, certificates. Always obtain a current certificate of insurance for the contractor verifying the existence of the coverages required by the work (such as general liability, workers compensation and auto insurance).
Talk with your agent about how your current homeowners insurance will respond for damage to your property, injury to the contractor or worker, or liability to others such as neighborhood children who see a construction site as the coolest playground ever.