Experience Is The Difference

Four Steps to Take When Choosing a Contractor

Are you looking for a contractor to build a home or do a remodel?  Who will you hire?  Will the contractor you hire ensure the project is done correctly?  Will they apply your money to your project and not someone else’s?  Will the contractor finish the project on time?  How much will it cost?  Will this be a positive or negative experience?


Step 1:  Check the Contractor’s Background

Ask around.  Talk with your family and friends.  Perhaps they have experience, either positive or negative, with a particular contractor and can steer you in the right direction or away from the wrong direction.

Once you have a particular contractor in mind, check his or her license status.  Go to the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation website, https://www.myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp.  At this site you can check whether the contractor’s license is current and active, how long the contractor has been licensed, and whether the contractor has been the subject of any complaints.  This website provides a link to do a more thorough check for complaints.  Use that link.

Step 2:  Get Competitive Bids Before Committing

Once you have narrowed your focus to two or three contractors, get bids.  This is a time for you to ask the contractors about how they would go about completing your project.  Ask them if they have completed any projects similar to yours.  Find out how long they think the project will take.  Use the bid process to get a feel for the contractors you are contemplating.  If a particular contractor’s bid comes in thousands of dollars lower than the other bids, be wary.  What you think is a great deal could turn into a sour one.  Remember the old adage:  if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Step 3:  Insist on a Written Contract

You should never enter into a project with a contractor without a written contract.  The contract should include a start date, a finish date, a thorough and detailed description of the work and materials, a specific breakdown of costs based upon this thorough and detailed description, a payment schedule based upon work completed, and a procedure for any changes to the scope of the work.  The normal procedure for changes is the use of “change orders,” which specifically describe the contemplated change to the scope of work and the corresponding cost of the change.  Insist on written change orders and never settle for verbal change orders.  Make sure the contract has an attorney’s fee provision which requires the losing party in any lawsuit that might arise from a dispute over the contract to pay the winning party’s attorney’s fees.

It is always a good idea to have a Board Certified Construction Attorney review your contract.  At The Robertson Firm, our Managing Attorney, Peter Robertson, is a Board Certified Construction Attorney with over 30 years of experience.  Mr. Robertson has been licensed by the state of Florida as a Certified General Contractor for over 35 years.  We have vast experience in construction contracts and can help you avoid some of the common contractual pitfalls that can entangle unsuspecting consumers.

Step 4:  Paying Your Contractor

Keep any payments to be made upfront to a minimum.  Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for contractors to “rob Peter to pay Paul” by funneling money received for one project to another project.  At The Robertson Firm, we have seen situations where an unwary consumer gave a contractor a large upfront payment which was never applied to the project.

Only make progress payment for completed work.  Insist on the contractor providing verification of payment in full to all subcontractors and materials suppliers who provided labor or materials for the completed work.  Also require the contractor to provide all invoices from these subcontractors and materials suppliers.  Do not make the progress payment to your contractor without first receiving a partial release of lien from all subcontractors and materials suppliers who worked on your project.  The last thing you want to receive in the mail is a notice from a subcontractor or material supplier saying he or she plans to put a lien on your property because the contractor did not pay the bill.

Finally, Even the Best Laid Plans Can Fail

If you end up in a dispute with your contractor, hire an attorney who is Board Certified in Construction Law and Civil Trial Law.  As previously stated, the Managing Attorney at The Robertson Firm, Peter Robertson, is a Board Certified Construction Attorney.  Additionally, Mr. Robertson is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney.  This combination allows The Robertson Firm to view your dispute with your contractor through the lens of experience and expertise, increasing your chance of a favorable outcome.  When it comes to avoiding a dispute with your contractor in the first place, or handling any dispute that may arise, at The Robertson Firm, experience is the difference.