Contractor Information


Please read. A well informed client is the best kind.


When you hire a contractor to repair, rebuild, or improve your home, the Better Business Bureau urges you to take the time to choose and hire the contractor who can perform work you'll be well satisfied with on terms you've agreed upon in advance.



What Contractor Does What

California licenses general building contractors, as well as contractors in more than 40 specialty fields. A general building contractor is the person you would hire for a job that requires three or more unrelated building trades or crafts. The general contractor might bid on a job to, say, remodel a kitchen. If his bid is accepted, he will hire specialty contractors to do, in this case, the flooring, cabinet, electrical, and perhaps other work. The general contractor doesn't do all the work himself but is responsible for seeing that the required building permits are obtained and that the job is done according to building code standards.



Requirement and Importance of License

In California, a general or specialty contractor--and this includes even a handyman you may hire--is required to hold a valid contractor's license in the license category in which he or she will be working in order to perform any work valued at $500 or more. This $500 includes the cost of both labor and materials.


In choosing a contractor, it is extremely important that the contractor be licensed. This means not automatically accepting the lowest bid for the work. Unlicensed contractors can underbid licensed contractors because often they don't have the expenses of a contractor's license, a city license, workers' compensation, and other insurance and expenses licensed contractors have. However, their workmanship is often inadequate and their materials inferior. They may also dis-appear as soon as they've been paid, leaving the homeowner with no address for them and no recourse.



How to Hire a Contractor

The Better Business Bureau recommends taking these steps before hiring a contractor:


Getting Bids

Checking Out The Contractor



Signing the Contract


First, realize that anything you sign may constitute a contract, so be sure you know what you are signing. Before you sign a final contract, be sure it includes the following information and provisions:

A building permit is generally required whenever structural work is involved or when the basic living area of a home is to be changed. If your contract does not provide that the contractor will obtain the permits and he doesn't, you may be held legally responsible.


Do not get any permit yourself. If you do, you will be considered to be the contractor, and you could be held liable if the work does not comply with the building codes.

Also, if you want changes after you've signed the contract, be sure they are spelled out in a signed "change order."


If you Change your Mind

If your contract was solicited at your home or some other place that is not the contractor's place of business or appropriate trade premises, you have the legal right to cancel your contract within three business days after you sign it. Your contractor is required to notify you of this right. Use those three days to review the contract again, and if you should cancel, do it in writing and send your notice of cancellation by certified mail. Keep a return receipt.


Protect Yourself Against Liens and Dissatisfaction

Once the work begins, if your contractor will have to use subcontractors, you should protect yourself from liens against your home in the event the primary contractor doesn't pay the subcontractors or suppliers. You can do this by insisting upon a lien release from all subcontractors and suppliers before you pay for any work. Or, you can use the services of a construction control company. For a small percentage of your contract price, you may deposit your payments with them and they will disburse the funds and secure the lien releases for you. Although they are not required to inspect the work, they generally do.


Finally, don't sign a completion certificate until you're satisfied that the job has been properly completed according to the contract and until inspection has been completed by local building authorities.



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