The short answer: Hire someone with a contractor’s license.
Qualified general contractors are licensed by the state. If your job will cost $1,000 or more—including materials and labor—you should ask the contractor to show you his license.
Before you sign a contract or hand over your deposit, check with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to make sure the license is valid and has not expired. To do that on the Internet, visit www.azroc.gov and click on “contractor info and searches.”
The license should be for the kind of work the contractor will perform. If you’re hiring someone to work on your roof, for example, the contractor needs a roofer’s license. That roofer is not allowed to replace your dishwasher unless he also has a plumber’s license.
A tip: You often can find good contractors by asking your friends and neighbors for referrals, or by asking contractors you’ve used in the past to recommend people they like to hire themselves. You also can find a list of the contractors Rosie has “certified” as well-qualified and trustworthy by visiting the Rosie on the House Referral Network.
Still, you should check beyond the license before you make your decision:
- Check with the Registrar of Contractors to find out if the contractor has any unresolved complaints on file. The ROC files complaints in categories such as “Disciplined, “Bankruptcy,” “Settled” or “Withdrawn.” If a complaint has been withdrawn or settled, that means the contractor has rectified the situation. A complaint filed in any other category should cause concern.
- Beyond having a license, your contractor should be bonded and insured. Ask to see evidence that he is, and check expiration dates. If the bond or insurance are set to expire before your job is finished, ask to see the certificate of renewal.
- Take a look at the bond to make sure the contractor is sufficiently covered for the volume of work he completes each year. You can find bond regulations on the ROC’s Web site. Some contractors try to get by on the smallest bond available rather than purchasing a bond that sufficiently covers their work volume.
- Insist that the contractor obtain building permits for all work that requires them. If he refuses or tries to talk you out of it, cross him off your list. Applying for building permits will trigger an inspection by a local building official to make sure all work has been done according to building codes. The contractor—not you—should take responsibility for getting the necessary permits, but you should ask to see them.
Consumers file more complaints against remodelers, handymen and other home improvement contractors than against any other kind of service provider. Hundreds of thousands of businesses and individuals call themselves home improvement contractors or handymen. Make sure the one you let into your home has all of his paperwork in order.