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Hiring a contractor? Tips from the state's chief enforcer

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer under How to blow the whistle Updated: June 7, 2010 - 3:43 PM

My Sunday column featured an interview with Charlie Durenberger, enforcement manager with the Department of Labor and Industry's Construction Codes and Licensing Division. Problems with contractors are some of the most common complaints we hear about at Whistleblower - Lora Pabst and I have written about contractors who do substandard work, the perils of unlicensed professionals and how the state sometimes puts troubled contractors out of business. All of these stories eventually lead us to Durenberger, who has the challenging task of overseeing the licenses of more than 13,000 contractors, as well as taking action against untold numbers of unlicensed contractors.

Before our interview, Durenberger provided me with a page of tips that everyone hiring a contractor should follow. It's divided into three parts, depending on the type of construction you need:

New Construction

  • Check license status with the department
  • Check BBB, Angie's List
  • Check litigation history.
  • Talk to others for whom builder has built homes
  • Make sure change orders are addressed in contract
  • Make sure details are in writing - start and completion dates; list of subs/suppliers; materials to be used
  • Make sure your title insurance covers mechanic's liens

Home Improvement

  • Check license status with the department
  • Check BBB, Angie's List
  • Check litigation history.
  • Check references
  • Make sure details are in writing - start and completion dates; materials to be used; change orders
  • Check on permits and inspections
  • Document communication with contractor - e-mail is good
  • Sign for certified mail (pre-lien notices)
  • Before making final payment, make sure you get lien waivers from any sub or supplier who served a pre-lien notice

Insurance/Storm Work

  • Don't sign anything!
  • Resist high pressure sales tactics
  • Assume any document you are asked to sign is a contract for work to be performed - don't sign until you know you want the contractor to do the work (due diligence first)
  • Check license status with the department
  • Check BBB, Angie's List
  • Check litigation history
  • Check on permits and inspections
  • Document communication with contractor
  • Sign for certified mail (pre-lien notices)
  • Before making final payment, make sure you get lien waivers from any sub or supplier who served a pre-lien notice

 

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