10 Steps for Hiring Service Professionals

10 Steps for Hiring Service Professionals
by Matt Myers, ServiceMagic

1. Confirm the sales person works for the company. Verify that the individual with whom you are speaking is an authorized agent of the company.

2. Ask for a copy of the company's license. It is important that you verify the license is still in good standing. Also keep in mind that certain states or provinces do not require licensing if the job is under a certain dollar amount. We recommend before working with a service professional, that you verify information presented is still current and/or acceptable to you. We recommend that you obtain a copy of the service professional's insurance certificate where applicable.

3. Ask for proof of insurance. Ask the company to provide a copy of their insurance certificate. We recommend that you verify with the insurance agency or carrier that the policy is still in good standing. General Liability insurance typically covers a contractor for accidents that occur while the contractor is working. However, there are exclusions to coverage, and you should confirm the actual scope of the contractors coverage directly with the contractor.

4. Finalize the contract before starting on a project. A good contract...

  • Should be written on company letterhead
  • Should contain the company's name, address, phone numbers, and license number (if applicable)
  • Should contain the consumer's name, address (where work is to be performed), and phone numbers
  • Is dated when it is written
  • Includes a detailed description of the work that is going to be performed
  • Provides dollar amounts associated with each task included in the project
  • Includes an anticipated/estimated start and finish date
  • Provides a payment schedule
  • Includes a termination clause
  • Contains a clause that protects the homeowner from any potential mechanics liens once you have paid the contractor in full
  • Clearly states whether permits will be pulled, and who will be responsible for pulling them.

5. Make payments to the company that was referred. Do not pay an individual.

6. Avoid paying with cash. Check and credit cards are preferable, and be sure to get a receipt for all payments.

7. Withhold final payment until you are satisfied with the project. Don't pay in full until the project is completely finished and you have completed your final inspection. If sub-contractors were used, be sure to get signed releases from all subcontractors clearly indicating that they have been paid in full by the general contractor. For larger projects, don't make the final payment until you have passed the final building inspection.

8. Don't advance money for materials. If absolutely necessary, make sure the materials are delivered to your house with a receipt showing that they have been paid in full.

9. Check multiple references. In addition to reading the company's ServiceMagic Ratings & Reviews, consider checking additional references for the service professional.

10. Document all changes to the contract. Make sure all changes to the original contact, no matter how small, are documented and signed off by both parties.

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