How to Avoid and Fix Contract Disputes With a General Contractor
Many homeowners need a checklist on hiring a contractor to ensure the work gets done correctly. At some point, most homeowners will need to hire a general contractor for a home improvement project or addition to the property, but many do not know where to begin when searching, or what to look out for in order to avoid a contract dispute. The homeowner is the first and last line of defense when it comes to choosing the right general contractor, and deciding on the right one starts with proper research.
The internet offers myriad resources for reviewing and researching general contractors. Sites such as Google and Angie’s List offer ratings and reviews that can be helpful in deciding on which general contractors are trustworthy and capable. Additionally, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau register complaints made against businesses and general contractors. Homeowners can check to see if potential general contractors have any formal complaints, and avoid any potential contract disputes.
The State of Ohio does not require general contractors to be licensed, but most cities in the state do, such as Columbus. Homeowners can check with city websites to see if a potential general contractor is licensed and bonded. A bonded general contractor has some sort of financial policy in place to pay damages against them in the event of a lawsuit or contract dispute. While a general contractor does not need to be bonded to work, it is typically a sign that the general contractor is responsible, diligent, and most importantly, doing what they can to avoid a contract dispute. You should only hire a contractor who has an insurance policy in place, and any such contractor should be happy to provide you a copy.
Homeowners would be wise to have an idea of what permits or licenses will be required for their specific job. A good general contractor will know and include such expenses in a written estimate, but homeowners would be wise to take the time to research costs. An attorney can offer advice on which permits and licenses would be required for a specific job and how to avoid illegal behavior in completing a project.
General contractors will be able to offer items that help potential clients decide for themselves whether or not they are capable of handling a job. Many keep portfolios of projects they are proud of and regularly share with potential clients. A good general contractor will be proud of their work and will make available several satisfied past clients as references. Portfolios and references are excellent resources to help determine how general contractors interact with their clients, and whether or not they can complete the job in a way that is satisfying to the client.
Cost is always at the front of everyone’s mind in a home improvement project, and general contractors are aware of this. They will be able to provide written estimates of the job, including itemized lists of materials, labor estimates, and any miscellaneous costs that may incur, such as permits. Homeowners will want to get at least three estimates from three separate general contractors to get an idea of how much the job will cost.
After settling on a general contractor, homeowners can ensure the contract they sign is fair for all parties. A general contractor should not get more than 20% of the total cost of the job up front, and will should earn a ask for a 10-20% profit over the costs. All guarantees, warranties, and promises should be written in the contract. It is perfectly normal for general contractors to be paid in stages of completion with final payment contingent upon inspection from a third party. Homeowners can also prearrange to pay for materials with an agreed upon supplier and have them delivered to the site, removing the general contractor from the process entirely.
No advice can hold true for every situation, and homeowners should always consult with a professional if they are concerned that a general contractor may be taking advantage of them. Call Doucet & Associates at (614) 944-5219 if you are concerned that a contract may be unfair, or if you need assistance unraveling a bad transaction or settling a contract dispute.