Part 1 of 4
Well, you finally decided that you want to remodel and now you need to hire a contractor, but where to begin? Sure you can ask friends and family for recommendations, or look in the yellow pages or even check out the local paper, but how do you know the person you hire will do the work as contracted to do so and not take your money and run in the process? This is the first of a 4 series set of articles.
I am not going to tell you who to use as a contractor, but I will tell you a couple of things you can do to protect yourself through the process of hiring and then contracting with a home improvement contractor.
Protect yourself. Research your contractor. You will likely be entrusting your contractor with a large amount of your hard earned money. I advise checking your contractor’s credentials and contacting former customers. In Connecticut, there are a lot of recourses available we can use to research contractors credentials ourselves. Keep in mind, that all this information collecting is public record. You have a right to obtain this information.
First, make sure the person you hire is a licensed home improvement contractor. Ask to see their license. All home improvement contractors working in Connecticut must be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), and they must display that registration number in all advertising. The State Department of Consumer Protection provides several licensing cards to the contractors, one of which is small enough to fit in a wallet. Be advised that plumbing, electrical and heating and cooling contractors require a separate license and registration with the DCP required by these trades is required. You can also check the license information directly on the web at the DCP website. Just select the Home Improvement Contractor choice and type in the name of the contractor. If the contractor has an unusual name, try typing in the first few letters of the last name and a list will pop up that should contain the correct spelling of the last name. This site should also report whether there have been any complaints or disciplines against the contractor. If you cannot find the contractor on this site, a red flag should pop in your head, and you should call the DCP directly and ask someone to check the contractor's name for you. The number is 1-800-842-2649. If you are given indication that the contractor has had any violations, you can request a copy of those violations and review them for yourself. You will need to file a Freedom of Information Act request with the DCP. There are guidelines in place for how long the DCP has to respond to your request.
I would also advise checking with the Better Business Bureau at 203-269-2700 to see if they have any complaints filed against the contractor you are considering hiring.
Here is the link to check the DCP for license information: https://www.elicense.ct.gov/
If you want to know if your contractor has a history of suits filed against him you can check this out too! Multiple suits would be a key indication that your contractor has been in financial trouble and may not be able to complete your job for whatever reason.
The following link is to the State's judicial website. From here you can select, case lookup, civil (or small claims) and party name inquiry. You will need to type in your contractor's name to see if any suits have been filed. You can also do the same for small claims actions. Small claims are filed for claims of less than $5000.
Here is the link to check for lawsuits: http://www.jud.ct.gov/jud2.htm
You can go one step further and check the US Bankruptcy court to make sure your contractor is not currently in the process of filing for bankruptcy. You do not want to enter into a contract with someone who is about to file without first knowing what your rights will be if he can include your potential claims against him in his bankruptcy action. In the Hartford area; the court's number is 860-240-3675. Where the contractor files depends on which town he lives in, so the above number may be different if you are looking into a contractor elsewhere in the state.