So much of my job is inspecting work done by contractors. And I’ve seen it all, from really exceptional, professional work to absolutely criminal botch jobs. (And we’ve already discussed what DIY can and can’t do.)
Whether you’re buying or selling, in Sarasota or Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch or Longboat Key, you will likely be on the market for contractors to do one thing or another on a property. Do you know what to look for?
Regardless of the type of work being performed, almost every contractor in the home industry will be have a collection of documents and certifications. These items range from licenses that legally allow them to work, to bonds and insurance that protect you, the customer, from costly fraud, errors and accidents.
The first thing you should look for when hiring a contractor is their license. A contractor’s license is issued by the state to contractors who have met a bare minimum set of requirements.
A license doesn’t necessarily mean a contractor is good at what they do; but a license does give them permission to do it. A good deal of home-related work is illegal if the contractor does not possess an up-to-date license.
(Related: My Florida State Home Inspection License number is HI-7498.)
When a contractor says they’re “bonded,” it means they’ve partnered with a third party to secure a surety bond for their work. If the contractor defaults on their contract with you, the customer, then you can make a claim for your lost investment. If the claim is verified, the third party will pay you.
What’s important to know about surety bonds is that the contractor is still ultimately on the hook for the money. But instead of them paying you directly, they’ll have to pay back the amount to the third party.
In short, a surety bond is sort of like a contractor saying, “I stand by my commitment to this contract; if I default, my customers will be paid and I this third party will help to hold me responsible.”
Insurance is another important way for contractors to protect their customers. In worst-case scenarios, an accident on the job, which is taking place on property that you own, can damage your property or the property’s supporting infrastructure. Or an accident can even injure a worker.
Without a contractor’s insurance, you as the property owner could be financially on the hook for these accidents.
All this to say: Know who you’re hiring to work on your home. Ask about these factors and more. A good, reliable contractor will be open with you.