As Milwaukee Contractor Lawyers, we have seen construction disputes arise and we frequently hear from owners who wish they could have made their hiring decision more carefully. Murdock Law has prepared some tips for owners to use when selecting remodelers and contractors to explain how to choose the right contractor for your project.
Does the contractor have a permanent business location?
A permanent location is a sign of stability. There are some contractors that run their businesses out of their trucks. These types of contractors might not be around to finish the job or to perform warranty work should the need arise.
Is the Contractor a member of the NARI or the MBA?
Companies that join NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) or the MBA (Metropolitan Builders Association) have made a commitment to excellence in the industry as there are ethical and professional rules that the contractors must follow. Most companies that are members will advertise their membership in the organization. Of course, membership in an organization is not enough in itself to ensure you will get a satisfactory job. Call the organization, they can alert you to any outstanding complaints against contractors you are considering for your job.
Does the contractor have a good reputation with your lender?
If you are financing your project with a construction loan you will want to ask your lender if they have ever worked with the contractor before. Like construction lawyers, lenders also see problems arise during construction. A lender’s guidance as to contractors to use or to avoid may prove to be invaluable.
Have you gotten multiple bids?
We are often surprised to hear that an owner hired a contractor without getting bids from other contractors. The existence of other bids may advise you to scope issues or problems with a bid. You should not necessarily go with the least expensive bid
Do you feel comfortable with the contractor?
Trust your gut. You will be sharing your house with the contractor during construction. You need to feel comfortable that you can have a good working relationship with the contractor. How will you handle change orders or other issues that may arise during construction? Good communication is imperative to a successful project.
Have you gotten references from the contractor?
Hiring a contractor is a big decision. Before making that decision, you should talk with others that have made that decision. Ask references whether they would hire that contractor again. Ask the references about their experience working with that contractor.
Have you checked CCAP?
Wisconsin’s Circuit Court Access Program (“CCAP”) is a great way to determine whether the contractor that you are considering has been involved in litigation. While many reputable businesses may be involved in litigation, you should view it as a huge red flag if there are unsatisfied judgments against the company. If there is recent litigation in the contractor’s history, ask the company about the details of the lawsuit.
Is the contractor licensed and insured?
Before hiring a contractor, you should determine whether the contractor is licensed and insured. Obviously, it is a big problem if the contractor is not licensed as it will affect their ability to obtain permits. Further, a contractor may demonstrate its financial stability through insurance. Importantly, the homeowner may be responsible for construction-related accidents if the contractor does not have workers’ compensation insurance and general liability insurance.
Will the contractor provide you with a copy of the contractor form at the time of bidding?
You should review the construction contract in detail. Take sufficient time to ask for clarifications and revisions to the contract if necessary. And if you decide to go with that contractor remember that contractual term is negotiable.
Murdock Law believes homeowners should select a contractor with a solid track record of well-executed projects on numerous types of projects. You want to be confident that the contractor can deliver great results for your project. Low price alone will not ensure a successful project as there could be bid errors or signs that the contractor is cutting corners.
After performing your due diligence, trust your gut. Is the contractor responsive to your questions? Do you feel comfortable that you are able to communicate with that contractor?