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The curious expression “Is you is or is you ain’t?” has a number of meanings but one is “are you really what you appear to be?” Appearances can often be deceiving and none is more prone to deception than construction contracting. Since most HOA boards possess little knowledge of how contract jobs should come together, a contractor with an engaging personality and a cheap bid can be a recipe for disaster.

Choosing the right contractor for your HOA renovation work takes time, but in the long run, the more care that’s taken, the less chance of shoddy work, cost overruns, and legal entanglements.

Getting references is not only a good idea, but absolutely necessary to discovering your contractor candidates’ true natures. Get at least three references from each that demonstrate the contractor’s ability to do comparable work with a quality result. Those references should include location, contact name and phone number. Visit each reference location to inspect the work and discuss the experience with the contact. Here are key questions to ask:

  • Were you able to communicate effectively with the contractor?
  • Were all change orders done in writing?
  • Was the job site picked up each day?
  • Were you pleased with the quality of work?
  • Did the crew show up on time?
  • Was the job completed on schedule?
  • Did final costs match your expectations?
  • Were follow up repairs done quickly?
  • Would you use the contractor again?

Many states have an agency devoted to contractor licensing and oversight. Check with that agency for complaints against your contractors, current licensing status and state required insurance. This can usually be done online.

Once you have narrowed down the field and are reviewing contract proposals, remember that the proposal is written for the benefit of the contractor and few have the kinds of provisions that a balanced agreement should have including:

  1. Evidence of contractor insurance (liability, workers compensation)
  2. Set date for job completion
  3. Penalty for not completing work on schedule
  4. Provide lien waivers in exchange for payment
  5. Progress payments for work completed (only if job is extended and expensive)

Take the time to screen your contractors. Make sure you only pick the “is you is” candidate and not the “is you ain’t”. For more on this topic, see Contractor Issues