Deciding whether or not to hire a licensed contractor can make or break your project
Is A License Really Important When Hiring A Professional Contractor?
You’re ready to renovate your business space and know exactly what changes need to be made, time is ticking and you just want to get it done. You’re determined to stick to your budget and don’t want to waste a penny. So when someone wearing a tool belt comes knocking on your door and says they can do the job at a fraction of the cost of a licensed contractor, it sounds too good to be true. Because it is.
The Risks Outweigh the Reward
A license proves that the contractor has met certain requirements such as passing a written exam that tests their knowledge of building codes and safety regulations and a criminal background check which gives a good indication of their moral character. Before obtaining a license, the contractor must also have general liability insurance. On the contrary, someone without a license doesn’t have to bother with any of these specifications and since they’re not accountable to the state’s licensing board, they often don’t bother with acquiring the proper permits for the job, which means your project won’t be up to code. This could result in significant safety issues and ultimately decreases your property value. If there is ever a dispute in the work a licensed contractor delivers, they’re required to participate in arbitrary hearings and any complaints are tracked by the Georgia licensing board. On the other hand, unlicensed workers aren’t held accountable by an overseeing authority and can deliver shoddy work without fear of repercussions.
Notice the Warning Signs
When you’re considering people for your project an unlicensed contractor will more than likely:
- Insist on being paid in cash and asks for full payment before work begins
- Say there’s no need for a contract
- Tell you a business license is the same as a contractor’s license (it’s not!)
- Won’t have any local references
Do Your Homework
It pays off in the long run to complete some due diligence before hiring someone. Get quotes from at least three professionals and check their references. Ask for their license number and take the time to confirm that they’re licensed. In Georgia, licensed contractors are listed at http://www.contractors-license.org/ga/ga.htm.
Go The Extra Step
For an extra layer of protection, only hire a bonded contractor or at least one that is bondable. This means that the contractor has extra insurance that ensures they can financially perform the job and you can request both performance and payment bonds. If the contractor fails to perform, the bonding company will step in and complete the job. This is especially wise for projects that cost more than $500,000. Even if you don't want to pay the extra premium for the bond, you should at a minimum request a letter that verifies the contractor has been vetted and approved for the program.
Ask The Right Questions
Once you’ve confirmed that the contractor is licensed, ask questions to find out if how he or she will communicate with you. You want to ensure that you’ll have a good working relationship and each phase will be handled professionally. Remember, a license doesn’t guarantee good work. Find out how long the contractor has been in business, and if permits are needed how they will acquire them. Ask about their payment schedule and what steps they will take to protect your property. Don’t be hesitant to ask how possible disagreements will be handled and if there is a warranty for any materials they are using. It’s also very important to exchange the best way to get in touch with each other as questions will inevitably come up during the project.
So, take the time to notice the warning signs and do your homework. By hiring a licensed, experienced contractor, you’ll inevitably save time and money on a project that will be delivered professionally.
Dawn Morgan has owned Collins Construction since 2009. The firm has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and has offices in Savannah, GA and Beaufort, SC.