Despite our familiarity with construction law, it never surprises us when we hear about contractor disputes. Many homeowners are excited for renovations and updating their home. Only to end up with a contractor nightmare. We’ve heard the stories and have worked for both contractors and homeowners. Here are five essential questions you should ask before hiring a contractor:
- Would you please itemize your bid?
A lot of times, contractors will give you one quote of a complete project. However, you don’t see how the costs add up. Ask about each charge and expense. This will save you many questions in the end and prevent balloon payments. Most construction law disputes are about money.
- Is your bid an estimate or a firm price?
It’s so easy to get an estimate. And while it’s nice to have an idea of how much construction will cost, it’s better to have a firm answer. Be sure to request a fixed price bid instead of an estimate. If a contractor says they can’t give you fixed price due to unforeseen issues, then try to eliminate those issues. For example, have them work on walls or crawl-through spaces to check for mold and water damage. If you can’t resolve the unknowns, have the project specs describe only what he expects to do. If additional work is needed, you can do a change order — a written mini-bid for new work.
- How long have you been in business?
This question is almost akin to asking for references. As we’ve known in construction law, a contractor should have an established network of subcontractors and suppliers. This network should be in the area.
- Can I get that in writing?
Of course, you should always have a contract in writing. A contract is different from an estimate or quote. Do not sign anything unless it’s tied to a contract. If you do sign any paperwork, make sure it is non-binding. This is construction law 101. In the contract, have the details of the project listed. Include timeline from start to finish, permits and expectations.
- What additional information do I need?
This question isn’t necessarily for the contractor but for you. While you should trust your contractor to give you the right information, it’s not a bad idea to research for yourself. Based on the work, find out what permits you need. Discuss any changes with your homeowners association as well. You want your experience with a contractor to go as smoothly as possible.
There are a number of additional questions relating to contractor work. If you are thinking about hiring a contractor and need some legal advice, contact a construction law attorney at May, Potenza, Baran & Gillespie. Our team is dedicated to provide great service. Contact us here for more information.
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