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Small Business Help Line – Tips for Hiring a Qualified Contractor

Tips for Hiring a Qualified Contractor

Question: I’m looking for a suitable contractor to remodel my business. What kind of licenses and insurance does my contractor need, and how do I know if the bid a contractor provides for a project is a fair price?

Answer: Making sure that your contractor has a license is an excellent start. To qualify for a contractors license issued by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB), one must pass a two-part examination, verify four years of journey-level experience, and secure a license bond.

You should also require that your contractor pull building permits for work done to your business. The building department of the city or county where your building is located issues building permits. Building departments send building inspectors to check your project to ensure the health and safety of your business’s employees and that the work meets uniform building code requirements. However, the inspectors don’t substantiate the quality of work done.

Workers’ compensation insurance is required for your contractor’s employees. Without workers’ compensation insurance coverage, you could be liable for an injury to employees who work on your property. Ask for a copy of the insurance certificate.

Also make sure that your written contract includes a “Notice on Commercial General Liability Insurance.” Contractors License Law doesn’t require that contractors carry general liability insurance, but they must inform you in writing whether or not they carry that kind of insurance.

To help you get a feel for what an acceptable price is, CSLB recommends that you get at least three written bids using identical plans and specifications. That way, you can accurately compare prices. Discuss the bids with each contractor and ask them to explain any variations in price. Ask the low bidder how he or she is able to deliver the project at that price and the highest bidder to justify his or her price.

To check the status of your contractor’s license and for more information about hiring a contractor, go to CSLB’s Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov.

Written by Anthony Elmo, Chairman of the Contractors State License Board, and the Director of Building and Safety for the city of Temecula.

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