When hiring people to come into your home, diligence is important for many reasons. For starters, if you’re hiring someone to help create your dream kitchen or renovate your bathroom, you want to be sure that you’re not hiring an individual or company that will take your money and run. However, you should avoid hiring bad contractors and other workers for another reason. There’s more at stake than an unfinished project. You also want to avoid theft and possible harm to yourself and family.
Whether you’re looking for construction professionals, plumbers, cleaning personnel, or movers, these are some of the steps to take to ensure your safety when hiring outside help.
1. Do your homework
One simple way to separate professionals from those who may be shady is by researching potential contractors and workers. Jody Costello, home renovation planning expert and founder of the website Contractors From Hell, tells us that you can start with a Google search of the company name and owner’s name, adding “complaints” or “reviews.”
Don’t stop with Google research. Find their social media profiles as well. “Find them on Facebook [and other accounts] and look over their reviews and even personal posts to ensure there aren’t any red flags,” advises Mary Witt of Rainbow International, a restoration service. “In today’s world, those avenues are tremendous resources for customers.”
2. Check licenses
If the job requires a license, Costello recommends checking with your State Contractors License Board. “When hiring contractors to do work in your home, make sure the license number is current, valid, and matches the owner’s name and company exactly.” And if you sign a contract with a corporation whose license is in an individual’s name, she says, you’re basically hiring an unlicensed company.
So why is licensure so important? According to Joan Helen Barton, general contractor and designer at Dirty Girl Construction in Los Angeles, it’s an extra layer of safety right out of the gate. “For example, any licensed general contractor or specialty subcontractor in California—and I assume all states—has already been vetted by the [Contractors State License Board] and the FBI.”
Barton says this means they’ve been fingerprinted and cleared through the FBI database. “Those who have committed criminal acts have to go through a special process with our judicial system to be allowed to carry a license, and, for those who are granted that opportunity, they are put under probationary status for at least a few years,” Barton says.
3. Ask for references
However, Barton says, she doesn’t know if post-license activity is tracked, so it’s still important to check through different avenues. For example, references should be checked. Costello says you should be asking pertinent questions. “Ask references about [the contractor’s] work ethics, behavior in the home, respect for property, and adherence to any requirements you have laid out in written agreements.”
4. Meet in person before hiring
To ensure the contractor or another renovation professional is a good fit for you, meet in person prior to hiring them. “Treat it similar to a blind date over a cup of coffee, and if you get a weird feeling, don’t hire them,” Barton says, emphasizing that you should always trust your instincts. If you question your ability to judge someone’s character or don’t want to meet the person alone, invite a friend to come along and help you decide. “If someone seems fishy, they probably are, so be picky and find the right person for you, since there are plenty to choose from,” she adds.