ANDY'S CONSUMER TIP OF THE DAY: Selecting a contractor

ANDY'S CONSUMER TIP OF THE DAY: Selecting a contractor

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Our 'dream team' of licensed, expert contractors has started work on the wreck that unlicensed contractors left behind at the Frayser home of Earnest Sanders, Jr. If you didn't see or read our story about what happened to him, here it is. It's heartbreaking, and it was a lesson for all of us that if the contractor asks you to pull the building permits yourself for work on your property, that means you didn't do your homework.

Because that's a sign the contractor is unlicensed and unqualified to do the job. Unlicensed contractors can't legally pull building permits on other people's property.

So to avoid the whole building permit thing from the get-go, do your homework. It starts here:

1. The Better Business Bureau. You should start with the bureau. Build a list of contractors who are listed as "BBB-accredited" and carry at least an "A" rating. BBB-accredited businesses automatically agree to arbitration in the matter of consumer complaints, and that arbitration is binding.

2. Your State Contractors Board. Depending on the type and cost of your job, your state may require the contractor to hold an active state contractor's license. If you cannot verify the license of the contractor, drop that company from your list, no matter what its BBB rating. Also, just because a contractor is licensed in one Mid-South state doesn't necessarily mean it is licensed in another Mid-South state. Mid-South states recognize reciprocal licenses only in certain conditions.

3. Get 3-5 Estimates. Once you've assembled a list of highly-rated and properly credentialed contractors, insist on estimates from each of them.

4. Verify Insurance. Ask the contractors to provide proof of insurance. According to Angie's List, contractor's insurance typically falls into one of two categories:

  • LIABILITY:  covers property damage and injuries caused by the contractor's work.
  • WORKERS COMPENSATION: covers workers injured on the job on your property, regardless of fault.

5. Verify Bonding. Most states require contractors to carry a surety bond. The consumer can file a claim against that bond with the bonding company should the contractor fail to complete the job, fail to pay the on-site workers or fail to pay for materials. Ask the contractors to provide either proof of bonding or the contact information of the bonding company, then verify the bond with that company.

6. Check Your City's/County's Requirements. Some municipalities require contractors to carry additional credentials. Crittenden County, Arkansas, for example, allows a privilege license for contractors who perform small jobs for less than $20,000, but they must carry an Arkansas contractor's license for jobs above $20,000. Make sure the contractor is cleared to pull building permits, electrical permits, plumbing permits, etc. with your city and/or county.

7. Make Your Choice, But Keep Records. Keep copies of your contract, licenses, proof of insurance, proof of bonding and any additional requirements. Consider keeping a photo or video "diary" of the construction's progress.

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