In these difficult times, it is more important now than ever for a homeowner to carefully examine the contractors they hire for home improvement projects. You don’t want to hire a contractor who has let their licenses and insurance lapse or fallen behind on payments to suppliers. The last thing a homeowner wants to do is hire a contractor who is on the brink of bankruptcy. A man from Tucson Az, hired a contractor to build a pool at his home and they went bankrupt in the middle of the job. So, make sure you have a payment schedule. Do not pay for anything in full. Fortunately, this Arizona man had a payment schedule and had plenty of money left over to have the pool completed by a different contractor. While it is impossible to gauge a company’s financial situation with certainty, there are services that can help you check legitimacy of the contractor. For example, go to the Better Business Bureau www.bbb.org or Angie’s list at www.angieslist.com or even the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance at http://licsrch.state.tn.us or call them at 1-800-544-7693. You can find out insurance information, court filings, including any lawsuits, or liens against the company. Once you have selected a company to do the work, request a written contract with lots of specifics. If the any part of the job changes, be sure to add new information to the contract as it happens. Insist that the contractor includes a start and end date along with detailed pricing. Be sure you understand the entire contract and do not sign it until you do. Make sure you pay the suppliers directly for materials. This prevents contractors from using your money to pay for other jobs. If your are unable to do that, ask for detailed receipts and verify them with the companies before reimbursing the contractor. Contractors will be willing to do these things to insure they are taking care of their clients. If you come across one that isn’t willing to do these things, keep on looking. That is why we are making these suggestions in the first place.