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Five Ways Hiring the Wrong Contractor Could Cost You for Years

Find out how choosing the wrong contractor could cost you for years

Landscaper working


Learn Five Ways Hiring the Wrong Contractor Could Cost You for Years and save yourself the frustration and expense that could result.

We have all been in the position of trying to hire a someone for a home improvement project.  For some projects, it’s easy; there are many brick and mortar stores to contact.  Tangible longevity and professionalism of the the business is evident.  Unfortunately, landscaping is not always so straightforward!  Brick and mortar stores are not expected; many landscapers travel with all their tools and equipment.  So how do you go about choosing the right company?  What is the difference between a landscaper, a landscape contractor and a guy with a truck, mower and shovel?  While these are all good questions and we will be writing about them too, a good starting point is making sure that you are protected.  Keep reading to Five Ways Hiring the Wrong Contractor Could Cost You for Years… and how to avoid these situations.

Please note that this is general information and should not be considered legal or financial advice.  Please consult your homeowner’s insurance for your liabilities as coverage varies.  Also, any potential legal action should be consulted with a licensed legal professional as each case has unique and specific factors.

Everyone who works on your property is a sub-contractor of YOU which means you are liable.

A Better Business Bureau article phrases it this way; “In most circumstances, unlicensed contractors offer lower quotes because they do not pay a licensing fee, or obtain a bond to protect their work, and in many cases, don’t purchase liability or workers compensation insurance. Without these expenses, the unlicensed contractor can offer a lower rate.”  They further caution that “the risk of hiring an unlicensed contractor is too great for homeowners.”

Let’s say it’s as innocent as paying a neighbor’s kid $20 to mow the lawn.  Under most homeowner’s insurance policies, you are assuming the risk for liability and workman’s comp if something were to happen.  Many homeowner’s insurance policies are void in these situations if the “sub-contractor” is unlicensed. Even if you hire a licensed company to do the work, unless they have current liability and workman’s comp insurance you still assume the liability for them, the property, and any potential third party. Only licensed contractors that have their own insurance remove that liability from you. As a blog post at Rogers and Gray points out, “Avoid taking a person’s word if he or she says there is insurance. A verbal confirmation will do no good if the person is actually injured while being uninsured.”

A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper you saved not writing it down.

One of the most common pitfalls is not getting your expectations of labor down on paper.  A hearsay battle will likely get you nothing more than legal fees if your project isn’t what you hoped.  It’s important to have signed documents including estimates and a written timeline so your complaints can be verified.  If your prospective hire is unwilling to provide these, it’s a pretty good sign they aren’t planning on standing by their work.

A warranty is only as good as the company behind it (if you can contact them again.)

Most of us have been in the situation where we have gotten work done and something doesn’t work properly.  In these situations, your first recourse is to go back to the comp any. It’s important to check a referral list or review before you hire them so you can get a good sense of whether they will stand by their work. If they prove unresponsive, complaints to the license board can result in a suspension of their license or a revocation entirely.   This deterrent disappears if the company wasn’t licensed in the first place.  Often time your last recourse is legal, which leads to our fourth point.

Suing unlicensed contractors is typically a dead end.

In many cases, hiring an unlicensed contractor will cause your legal case to be dismissed or exempt the contractor from following through on paying off their judgements, as was investigated during this KAIT article.  As Mary Broz Vaughan with the Department of Profession & Occupational Regulation said, “It’s sad when we have to tell folks you are not eligible [for compensation] because you worked with an unlicensed contractor or a contractor whose license had been revoked,” she says. “It’s like being victimized again.”

Furthermore, it’s common that companies without proper licenses don’t have assets for you collect your judgement even if it’s granted. Also, you don’t get back your time and in most cases your legal fees are your responsibility even if you win.

A poorly done job means you have to do it again.

Beyond the warranty and legal hassles, you could still be left with a project that isn’t complete.  Undoubtedly, the person you hire to finish it will be licensed with both liability and workman’s comp insurance.  You can see why hiring a legitimate company on the front end is infinitely better all around.

Bottom line, ask the questions; don’t make assumptions… ask for referrals, confirm licenses, request paperwork.  A legitimate business won’t be offended; we respect that you require and value our legitimacy.