Ask the contractor: ‘Don’t start without us’ red flags
The Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is proud to be in this community and assist with your construction/remodeling needs. And as we like to say, “Don’t Start Without Us.” However, many of you do start without us and then call for help.
The past couple of weeks have been filled with conversations and calls for help from homeowners who have been “hood winked” and lost money from unscrupulous representatives and unlicensed entities. As a refresher course and a reminder here are some important tips to follow.
Before you leap into a working relationship with a contractor, and particularly before you make payment, take a careful look at the contractor you are hiring. We have many good, hardworking, ethical, reliable contractors in our area. We also have “contractors” who have a history of making false representations, abandoning jobs or doing shoddy work.
Watch for these red flags:
• What if the contractor tells you he needs a large portion of money upfront? He says he needs to purchase materials or to pay workers. They may even tell you they have a sick child. RED FLAG! At first things may seem fine, in a day or two the workers show up, a small amount of material is delivered, or a piece of equipment is on site. Now the excuses begin. You call and call. Then he calls and is very apologetic and tells you about his truck breaking down or he was tied up on another job. He promises to get on your job right way. A week later he still has not returned and he has your money.
Does this sound ridiculous? It happens! As I said earlier and I will say it again, the majority of licensed contractors are competent, honest, hardworking, ethical and responsible people. This industry, due to complaints from homeowners (some valid and many not valid), is a top source of consumer issues, nationwide, not just applicable to Prescott. YCCA is always operating to be proactive and we are making sure our community and citizens are safe and well protected.
• Always make sure you use a licensed contractor. Keep in mind, that anyone can say they are licensed – MAKE THE CONTRACTOR PROVE IT! Ask for a copy of their State License, 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, they must be renewed every two years.
• Again, make sure the contractor has general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. These types of insurance protect you and your home from damage or negligence of the contractor, his employees and subs. Also, again, keep in mind, anyone can say they are insured, MAKE THE CONTRACTOR PROVE IT! If your contractor does not have insurance and something goes wrong, you have three choices – you can pay for the damages and repairs out of your pocket, and you can go after the contractor for the costs and damages, which mean suing. Keep in mind, if the contractor cannot afford to carry insurance, what are the chances he has any money to pay you from a judgment. The third item is that you might have to file against your homeowners insurance and there is no guarantee they will pay for the damage.
• A red flag is that contractors who do not carry insurance are more than likely avoiding other rules. These same risks are involved if the contractor does not carry workers compensation. You are at risk and you will be liable for any injuries suffered by the contractor or his employees on your property. If the contractor is a one-man operation, he can be exempt. Ask to see his exemption. This is risky, if the contractor shows up with help and the helper is injured and there is no workers compensation because he is exempt, you will be liable for the medial bills. It is always safer to deal with a fully insured contractor. It is a great risk to hire a contractor without workers compensation. You can be held responsible by law for their medical treatment.
• If a contractor asks you to pull the building permit this is a RED FLAG, possibly because they are not licensed.
• Make sure you understand the terms of the contract before signing and turning over any money. Make sure change orders are in writing; do not agree to them verbally. Be cautious of advancing money for work not yet completed or even started. The cost of buying and owning a home is the biggest investment made by most of us in our lifetime. Property owners and home builders often look for the lowest price when looking to build and/or remodel. Since most unlicensed contractors are not bonded or insured, they can often under bid the licensed professional.
Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning at 7 on KQNA 1130am/99.9 fm/95.5fm or the web at kqna.com. Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners. It is fun, it is entertaining and enlightening.