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Be Cautious in Hiring Contractor for Projects

Thinking about a remodeling project, maybe a much-needed addition to your home? Then consider the following before moving forward.

Most home owners have little or no expertise when it comes to construction projects, even small projects such as a bathroom remodel, and certainly not a larger project such as an addition. Depending where you live, finding a contractor (let alone a good contractor) can be a major undertaking.

I’ve found that there are a number of so-called contractors operating within our communities that are learning on the job, and yet they are licensed by the state, which seems to indicate they are skilled in their craft. These licensed contractors advertise they are fully insured. What does that mean as it relates to protecting you from shoddy work, incomplete work, or completing the work on time? I can tell you it doesn’t mean anything because the insurance they’re saying they have is usually a general liability insurance which doesn’t cover the concerns mentioned in the previous sentence.

Those home owners who’ve had a bad experience with a contractor have a rude awakening in store when they find out the West Virginia Contracting License law does not require any type of insurance. Contractors have limited liability (that’s what the LLC stands for), which means their personal assets are safe from any efforts to recover any damages resulting from incomplete or shoddy workmanship on projects.

I’ve had some experience in cases where the home owner spent thousands of dollars with a contractor, only to find out the work was structurally unsafe, unsound, or defective in other ways. In two cases, when the home owner hired an attorney to protect his interests, the contractor merely closed out his business, leaving the home owner with no one to seek recovery against, and, adding insult to injury, he now had attorney fees to pay.

There is a strong lobbying group that represents contractors, and history suggests they will not support being required to provide mandatory construction liability insurance or a surety bond (performance bond), especially on smaller projects. I can understand that reluctance, if done on a project by project basis.

However, if it was a yearly policy with a policy value range, i.e. contracts from $1,000 to $10,000 a fixed cost for coverage, and from $10,001 to $50,000 a fixed cost for coverage, and maybe from $50,001 to $100,000 and so on. Then a contractor, depending on his size and the normal dollar value of his contracts, could purchase a yearly policy just like he does for automobile insurance.

My recommendation to anyone seeking to start a construction project is to get at least three quotes for the work, check on references of each contractor, ensure they are licensed in the state and city/township, and remember the low bid/quote is not always the best quote.

The old saying “you only get what you pay for” is usually spot on.

I’ve spoken to a state senator in the hopes he will investigate my concerns and perhaps champion new legislation that will add comprehensive workmanship and liability insurance requirements to obtain a West Virginia Contractor’s License.

Hope Springs Eternal!

Jacobs, a resident of Wheeling, is a registered building inspector, a senior project manager (19 years) with a construction management firm, and owner of Construction Consulting Services, LLC.

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