Check List to Hiring a Contractor
How to hire a contractor? Check a Contractor License or Home Improvement Salesperson (HIS) Registration Look up a contractor license or Home Improvement Salesperson (HIS) registration to verify information, including complaint disclosure. Before hiring a contractor or signing a contract.
Determine what type of contractor you need. In California, anyone who contracts to perform work on a project that is valued at $500 or more for labor and materials must hold a current, valid license from the CSLB. You can verify the license on-line or call 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
Understanding the difference between a general and specialty contractor. General building contractors usually oversee projects and coordinate the specific licensed subcontractors for a job. Specialty or subcontractors are usually hired to perform a single job. For example, if you want only roofing or plumbing work, you may want to hire a contractor licensed in that particular specialty.
A general building contractor may also contract for specialty work, but must hold a specialty license for that work or actually have a specialty contractor do the work. The only exception is if the job requires more than two types of work on a building. Then it is appropriate for a licensed general building contractor to contract for and oversee the entire project. For example, if your kitchen remodeling will involve plumbing, electrical and carpentry work under one contract, you should hire a licensed general building contractor. Under these circumstances, a general building contractor may perform all of the work on a building, or subcontract parts of the job to contractors with specialty licenses.
Remember Contractors are required to have their license number on their business card and on all bids and contracts. Seeing the number there doesn't necessarily mean the license is valid. Check the license status on this Website. Although an unlicensed operator may give you a low bid, the risks of possible financial and legal consequences you may face outweigh any benefits a lower bid may seem to offer.
Verify the contractor's business location and telephone number. A contractor who operates a business out of the back of a pickup truck with a cellular telephone maybe difficult to find to complete a job or fix something that has gone wrong after the last bill is paid. You can find a licensed contractor's "address of record" on CSLB.COM when you look up their license status.
Verify the contractor's workers' compensation and commercial general liability insurance coverage. Ask to see a copy of the certificate of insurance, or ask for the name of the contractor's insurance carrier and agency to verify that the contractor has the insurance. In California, if a contractor has employees, they're required to carry workers' compensation insurance. The importance of this cannot be overstated. If a worker is injured working on your property and the contractor doesn't have insurance, you could be liable to pay for injuries and rehabilitation. Your homeowner's insurance may or may not cover those costs. You should check with your insurance carrier to make sure the workers' compensation insurance coverage being provided by the contractor is adequate. Learn more from the California Department of Insurance.
Commercial general liability insurance is not required, however, it covers damage to your property. If the contractor does not carry general liability insurance, they should be able to explain how they would cover losses that would ordinarily be covered by insurance. If your contractor damages your property and doesn't carry commercial general liability insurance, you or your insurance policy could end uppaying for damages. A licensed contractor must provide you with information regarding both types of insurance in your written contract.
Learn about the contractor's bonds. California licensed contractors are required to have a contractor's license bond. It's important to know what bonds do and do not cover. Some bonds are designed to protect you against substandard work that does not meet with local building codes. Bonds do not assure the financial or professional integrity or competency of a contractor. Institutional lenders such as savings and loans, insurance companies or commercial banks generally require licensed contractors to secure bonds for large jobs.