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How can I find a good contractor?

California homeowners who want to make home improvements and save money doing them may toy with the idea of hiring unlicensed workers. If you are one of them, make sure you weigh that decision carefully before taking that risk. If the work is shoddy, your property is damaged or someone gets hurt, you could be on the hook for some significant expenses that cost more than what you are hoping to save.

The Contractors State License Board suggests homeowners take the time to shop around and request written bids from three or more contractors. Be sure to give each one the same project specs so you can compare apples to apples.

Be skeptical about bids that seem too good, or too low, to be true because they probably are. A bid that is significantly less than others may signal a simple math error or one that does not account for all the work. Or it could mean you have found a contractor who may cut corners.

You should ask for a copy of the contractors’ insurance certificate or provider phone number to verify the company has insurance. Look first for workers’ compensation, which the state requires all contractors with employees to carry. Otherwise, you might be liable for any injuries should your homeowner’s insurance not cover medical expenses. Also check for general liability insurance, which is not required but covers property damage.

The board requires contractors for projects worth $500 or more to hold a current license and to include the license number on all types of advertising, from websites to flyers. Homeowners can visit the state board’s website to verify the license. Also, be sure to check the name on the license with a picture ID. Sales employees of a licensed contractor should also have a registration card you can check against their picture ID.

This article contains general information and is not intended to be taken as legal advice.

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