Pay Attention to the Details A Guide to Hiring Contractors

When it comes to work in, on, or around a residential building, there’s really no such thing as a small job. Whether a minor fix or a major capital improvement, there are a number of factors that determine the success of a project, particularly when it comes to the facade and exterior maintenance.

Generally, it's the property manager who takes the lead in hiring contractors for everything from paint touch-ups to full-on roof replacements. There are scores of different contractors, all with different specialties and reputations. Some are great at managing all the aspects of work and safety, and some are not. While property managers will be a huge boon to the process, it's ideal to get a third party involved in finding a contractor. “The primary thing is to have a good architect, who you trust to help guide you through the bidding process on what it is you need to get done. You have a needs assessment done, you see what the work is, then you bid out and find out the reputation of the companies,” says Dean Roberts, an attorney at the law firm of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, P.A., with offices in Bridgewater.

Look to the Property Manager

Just like most other walks of life, property managers will often a trusted and known quantity for small projects like painting jobs or basic maintenance projects. But, for larger projects, finding a contractor includes a few extra steps. “With respect to any contracts, you should get three bids, so that you can compare them and see if they’re reasonably in line. It’s very important to check their credentials. How long they’ve been in business, get a list of references, call multiple references, and find out what experiences they had with that particular contractor,” says David Dahan, a shareholder attorney at the law firm of Parker McCay in Mount Laurel.

Part of the bidding process involves securing the requisite permitting and licenses. “You want to make sure they’re properly licensed. You want them to be registered with the state of New Jersey. There’s a Contractor Registration Act, and they’re assigned a registration number. You want to make sure they have insurance, and see that before any work is done. You want the association to be named as an “additional insured” in the policy,” says Dahan.

One of the major caveats involved with larger-scale exterior projects is just getting things done on schedule. Contractors can sometimes juggle many different jobs and with so many variables like weather, weeks can stretch into months. “The thing you really have to watch out for is the work that comes up that isn’t on the original bid. The minute they start playing with the bricks, you know they’re going to find something. There needs to be a clear structure about who determines the work, how the change/order system is going to work, because you don’t want to make a $25,000 job into a $100,000 without some checks and balances on approval. I’ve seen some contracts that give contractors a whole lot of discretion, and that’s not a good thing,” says Roberts.

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