Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hiring a contractor in Hampton Roads Virginia

These are some great tips to observe when looking to hire a contractor for any home repairs or construction. They are courtesy of our law partner Lytle Law.
The single most important thing you can do when hiring a builder or contractor is
to hire one with a good reputation for quality, honesty and pride in his or her work.
Everything else below is really an attempt to determine whether you are getting that at a
price you can afford and to protect you should you not. So:
2. Get at least two bids, three is better. Get one of those bids from a contractor with
the best reputation – one that is known for being expensive but known for doing quality
work – it will give you a yard stick to truly measure the cheap one. As in most things,
you get what you pay for.
3. Hire only licensed contractors. Note that Virginia has different classes for scope
and value of job – so verify the contractor has the proper license. You may check the
contractor’s license at or (804) 367-8511. Frankly, you ought to
require proof of insurance as well.
4. Evaluate the contractor:
a. ask the contractor for references and check with former customers to see
if they were satisfied with the quality of work performed. Actually call them.
Since most contractors aren’t going to give you bad references you need
to actually look at the work.
b. Doesn’t hurt to check with the Better Business Bureau. You can also
check DPOR for Board complaints.
c. Ask how long the contractor has been in business and where. Also ask
for a local phone number where the contractor can be reached during
normal business hours. Call that number and see who answers and how
long it takes. If a receptionist or someone answers professionally, great.
If instead a girlfriend answers “Hello” and then says he’s sleeping, well,
that might tell you something else.
d. Avoid hiring any contractor who:
i. wants to do the work under someone else’s license
ii. arrives in an unmarked truck or van;
iii. appears to be willing to do the job at an unusually low price;
iv. requires full or substantial payment before work begins (note the
10% rule discussed below);
v. refuses to provide you with a written estimate or contract;
vi. refuses to provide you with a license number issued by Virginia;
vii. refuses to provide you with references;
viii. shows up at your door unsolicited; or
ix. uses high-pressure sales tactics.
5. Get a written contract that at a minimum states (these are the Board’s of
Contractor’s requirements: see
a. When work is to begin and the estimated completion date;

b. A statement of the total cost of the contract and the amounts and
schedule for progress payments including a specific statement on the
amount of the down payment;
c. A listing of specified materials and work to be performed, which is
specifically requested by the consumer;
d. A "plain-language" exculpatory clause concerning events beyond the
control of the contractor and a statement explaining that delays caused by
such events do not constitute abandonment and are not included in
calculating time frames for payment or performance;
e. A statement of assurance that the contractor will comply with all local
requirements for building permits, inspections, and zoning;
f. Disclosure of the cancellation rights of the parties;
g. For contracts resulting from a door-to-door solicitation, a signed
acknowledgment by the consumer that he has been provided with and
read the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
statement of protection available to him through the Board for Contractors;
h. Contractor's name, address, license number, class of license, and
classifications or specialty services; and
i. Statement providing that any modification to the contract (i.e. a change
order), which changes the cost, materials, work to be performed, or
estimated completion date, must be in writing and signed by all parties
j. Not required but recommended: specific time lines and provisions that
address what will happen if the contractor fails to meet the contractual
6. Pay 10% down, or $1,000, whichever is less. If the contractor says he needs
more to buy materials and get started then consider having the materials purchased and
controlled by you, delivered to you. An excess amount to start is a red flag that
something is awry or the contractor will be robbing Peter to pay Paul. Typically
reputable and sound contractors have accounts at supply houses and don’t need to pay
cash for materials.
7. Don’t make any further payments until you see a building permit. If the
contractor says one isn’t needed then call the City or County and verify that information.
8. Don’t let payments get ahead of work. Keep record of payments. Require a
mechanic’s lien waiver not only from your contractor but from any subs and supply
houses before you make a payment. You can get a suitable form on line or contact me and I will put you in touch with our law firm.
9. Don’t make final payment until you’re satisfied with the job.
10. Don’t pay cash. Again, never pay cash (first, they are cheating us by not paying
taxes, second, you have no good record)
11. Keep a job file of all papers relating to your project.
12. Warning signs of a scam:
a. Provides a credential or reference that can't be verified.

b. Offers a special price only if you sign today, or use other high-pressure
sales techniques.
c. Only accepts cash, require large deposits or the entire costs up front, or
asks you to make the payment in their name.
d. Does not provide a written contract or complete bid.
e. Asks you to get the building permit. In most instances, if you have hired a
contractor, the contractor is required to take out the permits. Permits are
your protection and help ensure that work will meet local building codes.
f. Offers exceptionally long warranties.
g. Wants to do most or all the work on weekends and after hours
h. Gives you an offer that sounds "too good to be true."
Lastly, please know that Virginia has a contractor recovery fund if you are
defrauded by a contractor. See a lawyer for help on that or call the Board of

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