A reader: I am looking to do some home improvements. I’m not very handy so I want to hire someone to do the work. People leave fliers on my front door all the time offering to do every type of job from plumbing to roofing to hanging fans. What should I look for before I hire someone? I don’t want to let just anyone in my house. How do I know if I am hiring the right one?
Action Line: Just because they leave a flier on your front door doesn’t mean they are the right one to hire. It means that it is an inexpensive way to advertise. They may give you a really great quote for doing the work, but remember, the lowest price is not always the best price.
However, anyone doing work for more than $500 in the state of California must have a contractor’s license. And not all contractors’ licenses are the same. Just because someone has a license to repair your plumbing doesn’t mean he or she is licensed to reroof your home. The $500 figure includes everything about the job, labor and materials.
Buyer beware! It is always the consumer’s responsibility to check the status of a license and the insurance needed before allowing someone to work on their property. Verifying a contractor’s license and insurance is easy to do. Just go to http://www.cslb.ca.gov/ and enter the business name, the individual’s name or the license number they have provided to you.
Check their BBB Business Review at www.cencal.bbb.org and talk to any neighbors who might have used their services.
Remember that you, as the property owner, can be held responsible if a worker is injured on your property or if supplies are purchased in your name and not paid for if you use an unlicensed contractor.
A licensed contractor also will know what permits are required to do the job in question. But it is the homeowner who will be in trouble if those permits are not applied for and the work is done in violation of city and state laws, so hoping that an unlicensed contractor will do the work adequately without anyone noticing is risky.
Perhaps it is time to eliminate the word “handyman” from our vocabulary. My grandfather and my dad were handy men to have around to do chores, hang pictures or even fix the occasional drippy faucet if it didn’t involve more than replacing one of those little rubber washers.
Home repair contractor might be a more accurate description in today’s world. With rising expenses, there aren’t too many home improvement projects that will fall under the $500 threshold. Taking the time to use a properly licensed professional may cost a bit more in the short run, but it’s worth it in the end if you protect the largest asset you will probably ever own.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.