Before you sign a contract, or hand over your deposit, check with the Home Improvement Contractors section of the New Jersey Consumer Affairs website (www.njconsumeraffairs.gov) to find a certified contractor or to verify contractor’s registration.
You can also find a list of certified contractors at (www.angieslist.com). With “Angie’s List” you can get live support through their call center which helps you find a highly rated contractor. You can verify his credentials, hire a contractor, and once you have hired him, you can even report back to that website with your feedback. Keep, in mind, that you can also get referrals by asking your friends and neighbors for someone they have used in the past.
Here are a few helpful tips:
- The contractor’s license should be for the kind of work the contractor will perform. If you’re hiring someone to work on your roof, for example, the contractor needs a roofer’s license. That roofer is not allowed to replace your dishwasher unless he also has a plumber’s license.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org) to type in a company name or to find the phone number for the BBB in your part of New Jersey.
- Beyond having a license, your contractor should be bonded and insured. Ask to see evidence that he is insured and check expiration dates. If the bond or insurance are set to expire before your job is finished, ask to see the certificate of renewal. Take a look at the bond to make sure the contractor is sufficient for the volume of work he or she completes each year.
- Insist that the contractor obtain building permits for all work that is required of them. If the contractor refuses or tries to talk you out of it, cross them off your list. Applying for a building permit will trigger an inspection by a local Building Official to make sure all work has been done according to building codes. The contractor – not you, should take responsibility for getting the necessary permits, but make sure you ask them…
What to Avoid When Choosing a Contractor
As we have seen on numerous occasions and in news reports, natural disasters can attach predators en masse. Of particular concerns are phony contractors who knock on the doors of distraught homeowners to offer to repair damaged roofs, fallen trees, etc. They take hefty deposit but never return to do the work. The following tips from This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and the National Association of Home Builders will help you spot a crook under any condition. You can also log on to his website (www.thisoldhouse.com) for additional tips and helpful hints.
Beware of a contractor who:
- Refuses to give you a copy of his license and certificate of insurance. That license should include liability and worker’s compensation.
- Has popped out of nowhere, literally, and you can’t verify his or her references, or one that does not have a fixed business address.
- Rubs you the wrong way. Also, “trust your instincts” says Tom. “If something doesn’t feel right about the person, then it probably isn’t.
- So eager to get things started that the technicalities get brushed away – but not the fee. He/she will say “you don’t need a contract” and try to get you to pay for the project up front.
- Asks you to pay for work that has not been done yet or for materials that have not arrived. “If you don’t see it, don’t pay for it,” says Tom.
- Offers a bargain in exchange for using your home as an example of his/her work or tempts you with a low price that’s only on the table if you sign that day.
- Asks you to write a check directly to him for products, such as cabinets and windows, instead of to the company supplying the items…