Papers, Please! What to Know When Hiring Contractors

 Whether it is redesigning light fixtures in a common space or replacing a roof,  repair jobs and capital improvement projects are like death and taxes, they are  inevitable. Whereas a property manager most often handles the hiring of  contractors and oversees the execution of the job, problems and issues often  arise which makes it important for board members to understand licensing,  documentation and accepted protocols.  

 All too often, projects run long and/or cost more money than expected, or  contractors do not meet state-mandated requirements for conducting business.  These variables lead to headaches—both legal and financial. So aside from cross-referencing recommendations, it’s important that boards and property managers understand existing codes and laws  that were designed to protect the consumer, explains Lisa Ryan, public  information officer for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA).  

 Legal Basics

 Ryan points to the Division of Codes and Standards that partners with the state’s municipalities and enforces building codes “to protect the health and safety of New Jersey residents.” Specifically, the Uniform Construction Code oversees building, electrical,  plumbing, fire protection, energy, mechanical, elevator, radon, asbestos,  rehabilitation and barrier-free sub-codes, and lead hazard abatement; all of  which can present significant issues during construction or remodeling  projects.  

 To legally operate in New Jersey, contractors are required to register with the  DCA. This process includes listing principal officers of the company, any  bankruptcy proceedings the company has been involved in as well as any consumer  fraud proceedings involving the company.  

 Despite these measures, Ryan says there is no legislation that directly  addresses co-op or condominium boards. “There is nothing in state statute that specifies the documentation a co-op board  or manager must get from a contractor,” she says. “Anyone acting as a fiduciary has due diligence obligations. Failure to perform  due diligence may present a liability but the extent of the liability is for a  court to decide.”  

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