Housing developmentEach year, residents and property owners spend billions of dollars on home improvement. Projects ranging from a new Kitchen or bathroom to repairing a leaky roof or changing your heating system. The initial planning for a home improvement project can be tricky and intimidating.  Choosing the color scheme or the fixtures is only part of the process. Once you know what project you need done, your first step will be in finding the right person to do the job.

No matter what work you are planning to have done to your home, hiring a contractor can be a daunting task.  The horror stories are endless where contractors have run off with money without finishing the job to where the contractor ‘s incompetence has left the customer’s home in shambles. The stories are so outrageous and numerous that tv shows have been successfully built around them.

The first step in choosing a contractor to actually do the job requires finding contractors that you wish to “interview” for the job. That is, come in and give an estimate.  Where to go for a list of Contractors is not like pulling out the yellow pages anymore. Now there are a number of websites that provide listings of contractors. Such sites include Angieslist, Houze and Home advisor to name a few. These sites will provide the names of contractors based on the area you are in and the type of project you want done. These websites also offer reviews given by various prior customers.

Once you have a list, you want to get a better idea of the credentials of each potential contractor. Doing a quick check on each company, and the contractor him or herself, is not a step that should be overlooked or skipped.  First check if the contractor is a licensed contractor. In New York, if a contractor is not licensed, he is not entitled to any compensation for any work he has done. This means that he cannot seek to collect any money from you and if you take him to court to recover money that you paid home, he will lose and you will win.

In addition, it is a Class A misdemeanor in many counties and municipalities within New York to engage in “home improvement” without a license. Fines can range from $500 to $5,000 for each offense and civil penalties can be $100 per day. Imprisonment is also authorized under many statutes.

Checking on the licensing of a contractor is pretty easy by using a google search for your state. For New York you can go to https://ag.ny.gov/checking-whether-home-improvement-contractor-licensed.

Once you have confirmed the contractor, and/or the company, is licensed you can begin to narrow down your list of prospective contractors. When calling to set up interviews, estimates, one of the first questions to be asked is whether the contractor is insurance. If the answer is yes, request that proof of insurance is brought to the estimate. Don’t’ be shy here, this is your home.

One final point that needs to be said.  When you meet with the contractors, always ask whether or not the job will require the contractor to include a subcontractor. If the answer is yes, find out who that would be and do your homework to confirm that the subcontractor is licensed and insured as well.

In the next series I will address how the estimate process can be used to gather information for your contracting with the contractor.

If you would like more information or need assistance with a contractor who did not meet your expectations, call our office to speak with a Long Island lawyer. We also serve Kings County residents in Brooklyn, residents of Queens, those in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, as well as people in other New York areas.