Hiring Contractors: Are Background Checks Really Necessary?
That’s a question I’ve gotten a lot over the years and based on my prior experience in hiring contractors, I can only say yes. Then there are those homeowners who never conducted a background check on their contractor, did just the usual routine of checking references, license checks and interviewing contractors and had a good result. Perhaps they were working with an architect or designer and relied on them to provide referrals. But the percentage of people who rely on just the basic research and come out with a great result, I simply have to question. Based on the feedback I’ve received from consumers over the years, it’s the lack of thorough research that got them into trouble.
Interestingly, this morning I was listening to Head Line News and the news anchor was interviewing a security expert in regard to the Washington Navy Yards’ senseless killings, by an individual who had security clearance to work there. Their discussion centered on the shocking discovery that he had a questionable background of violence as well as mental health issues. And it’s what the security expert stated that made me think about background checks in general. He related that the government had cut back on spending and had failed to place critical importance on hiring the top security background screening companies. He went on to say they corporations spend more on hiring the best background screening companies to protect their interests. In contrast, the the government went with the lowest bid in order to cut costs and look what they ended up with. A horrible tragedy ending in deaths and a security breach that the United States should not have ever had allowed.
Obviously, the stakes on conducting background checks on contractors are far less threatening and the two scenarios are completely different. However, a homeowner who is forking over tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a home improvement project cannot afford to hire someone whose background has some skeletons and a history of unethical behavior. License checks, references and going to on going projects will not reveal a complete snapshot of who the individual is or what his business ethics are. License checks are limited to what the state regulatory agency can disclose, but that the courts can. References are a very small part of discovery and some people may not want to share their experience if it was a bad one. When visiting on going projects, most homeowners aren’t aware of the details they should be looking for and are not familiar with construction practices.
Given my experience 12 years ago, had I done a background check on our contractor we would have never hired him. Besides a number of lawsuits and ultimate complaints, he had a consistent history of filing Mechanics Liens against former customers and some of his suppliers would not extend the usual 30-45 day credit. Based on the emails I’ve received over the years, homeowners who got into trouble with their contractor always ended up confessing they did little research on their contractor and either trusted him/her because he was a contractor or relied on a license check alone.
So if you want to find a contractor you can trust, be sure that you do a thorough background check, research your state’s contractors laws and know your rights to ensure you have peace of mind with your remodel.