Hiring a contractor: the basics

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Asked by a friend to meet a contractor to give his opinion if the contractor should be hired for mold remediation, Brown said that the contractor had neither insurance or a prepared contract for a customer to sign. “To add insult to injury, he wanted 50 percent up front (a sum of $10,000) to get started. Obviously, I asked him to leave and advised my friends to seek someone or some company that was reputable,” Brown said.

Brown listed his basics for hiring a contractor:

a) Liability Insurance: Your contractor must have liability insurance naming you “As Additionally Insured” on the written policy.

b) Workmen’s Compensation: If he has any employees, he must furnish you with a Work Comp. Certificate.

c) Contract: A document that will not only specify the work that is to be provided, but will also specify how long the project will take to complete, with a date of completion. The contract should also have the terms of the warrantee included, which will define the warrantee on the material as well as warrantee of the labor provided. The contract should also include a payment schedule that offers a deposit (typically 20 to 25 percent) and proceeds with further payments as work progresses, culminating into the final payment upon substantial completion and or inspection by the local building department.

d) Licensing: Almost every tradesman that will enter your home is required to have some type of license, whether through the county, town and or village. A call to your local building department will clarify this issue.

e) References: It truly amazes me that people are so desperate to get anyone in their home that they don’t even think to ask for at least three references of local people that have used the person or company for similar work. When I asked my friend’s potential contractor for a couple of references, he could not, though he stumbled about for a minute or two to think of one that would give him a good referral. A call to Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs at (516) 571-2600 is also advisable to see if there are any issues with the contractor, whether carpenter, plumber or electrician. Consumer Affairs will also let you know if in fact the person is licensed and if there are any complaints.

“I know everyone is anxious to get back to their lives, but caution should be taken to ensure that you and your families are physically and financially safe and not placed in a worse position,” Brown said. “There are many great trades people out there, but unfortunately, there are many bad guys as well, looking to take advantage of the desperate.”

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