Home insurance

Tips for hiring contractors

Wednesday, March 13, 2019by  PEMCO Insurance

When your home has been damaged, it's easy to feel overwhelmed as you try to get it – and your life – back to normal. Part of PEMCO's "worry less, live more" philosophy is putting you in control when it comes to choosing a contractor and having the final say in how repairs are handled. Here are some ways to help your project go smoothly.

Write down everything you want

Then share that master list with everyone involved. Your list can head off misunderstandings about expectations, timing, materials and scope. If there's an artistic component to the work (like rebuilding a chimney or a masonry façade), include pictures of finished projects you like.

Find the right contractor

Friends, your PEMCO adjuster, consumer websites, your homeowners association or your county's Master Builders Association are all good places to start. Ideally, you can reach out to three or four good candidates. Before you invest too much time, ask potential contractors about their current workloads. Too many projects going at once could mean yours will drag on longer than you'd like. Talk to your contractor about your expectations and scheduling. When can they begin? Do they have resources to finish the job? When will you get updates, and how you will learn about delays?

Get written bids and check references

Most contractors are happy to put you in touch with recent clients and some from a few years ago (important, so you can get a sense of how well contractors stand behind their work if a problem crops up later).

Besides the quality of work, ask about things like flexibility with changes, tidiness (which matters if you'll be living at the house during remodeling) and punctuality. Check the Better Business Bureau for complaints.

Check that your final candidate is registered, bonded and insured

In Washington, contact the Department of Labor and Industries at 1-800-647-0982 or visit protectmyhome.net. In Oregon, contact the Construction Contractors Board at (503) 378-4621 or visit oregon.gov/ccb.

Here's what to look for:

  • Bonding.

    In Washington, general contractors must maintain a bond of at least $12,000 to pay for repairs if your project is done poorly or if they don't complete it. In Oregon, it's $20,000. Specialty contractors like painters and electricians may have lower bonds.
  • Insurance.

    They need at least $250,000 in combined property damage and liability insurance in Washington and up to $500,000 in Oregon, with some specialties requiring less. That protects you if, for example, an errant nail punctures a pipe and floods your house.
  • Workers Compensation coverage.

    If contractors have employees, they also must maintain Worker's Compensation insurance to cover injuries if they get hurt on the job. That's important because anyone injured on your property, including paid contractors, can sue you for damages. Your PEMCO homeowner's policy provides liability coverage (up to the limits you selected) and legal-defense costs.

Although it's illegal for contractors to work without those requirements, some operators do skip them and bid projects at cut-rate prices. (Check out these tips to spot a contractor scam.) If you hire an unlicensed, uninsured worker, you assume the risks of a sub-par job and have little recourse to get the job done right.

Once you choose a contractor

Be sure all permits are completed before the work begins. Use caution with down payments or paying for work not yet completed. Be sure you're satisfied with the job before making the final payment. If there are changes to the work, have the contractor put them in writing, including additional costs.

Consider adding work outside of PEMCO's claim repair

Were you thinking of remodeling your home even before it was damaged? Many people take this opportunity to combine a remodeling project with their claim repair, often saving time and money. Just know that changes from the PEMCO estimate are your responsibility. The fine print matters! Before signing contracts, carefully read them to be sure you know what you're committing to. (For example, if the contract has penalties if you don't go through with the job, you might decide the contractor is not right for you.)

Remember: You're not in this alone. PEMCO's in your corner whenever you have questions or concerns. Contact your PEMCO adjuster or call 1-800-GO-PEMCO.

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