Choosing a Contractor
Often I am asked questions such as "who would you recommend I have do the work" or
"Is this contractor OK". These questions place my staff and I in a very difficult situation.
We are unable to recommend or guide consumers in their choice of contractors. We all
feel obligated to serve the residents of Mendham Borough to the best of our ability.
However our legal obligation as Licensed Code Enforcement professionals does not
allow us to give the answers that you would like to hear.
The same holds true for contractor / consumer disputes. My staff and I are sometimes
asked to take sides and mediate in disputes between parties. Our position is constant; if
the work is in compliance with the code we cannot become involved. Legal code
compliance, contractual obligations and purchaser expectations may vastly differ. These
matters are civil in nature and should be handled accordingly.
The bottom line is BUYER BEWARE. You need to do your homework before you have
work done in your home. Take steps to prevent being misled or deceived, select a
contractor whom you can trust with your most valuable asset.
Here is list of things you should investigate prior to entering into an agreement with a
contractor. Keep it for future reference.
• Does the contractor have a permanent business location and a good reputation?
• How long has he or she been in business?
• Is the contractor a member in good standing of a professional trade association?
• CHECK REFERENCES. It's important that you talk with people who have hired
the contractor to do similar jobs to yours and ask if they would hire the contractor
• Have you seen the contractor's work both in progress and completed?
• Does the contractor have proof of worker's compensation and general liability
insurance? If not, you may be liable for any construction related accidents on
your property or damage to property caused by an accident.
• Price drives the selection. If you like the contractor and are confident with his or
her work, but they came in with a bid which is beyond your price, ask what can
be scaled down to meet your budget.
• Are you able to communicate easily with the contractor? Misunderstandings
during the course of the project can lead to cost overruns and delays.
• Do you feel comfortable with the contractor? Remember, you will be in close
contact with them and will share your house with their crew until the project is
• Will the contractor provide you with a complete and clearly written contract as
required by NJ law?
• Ask what type of warranty is offered. Most contractors offer some sort of warranty
in writing.
Do not allow the contractor to start any work before a construction permit has been
issued and is on the job site. If the contractor is willing to work without a permit he or
she has something to hide. Obtaining permits is the legal responsibility of the
homeowner. Failure to obtain a permit is subject to a penalty of $2000. Most of the time
a contractor will work with you to obtain the permits.
Be sure that your agreement states that final payment will not be presented until a
Certificate of Approval or Occupancy is obtained from the Construction Official. This is
for your protection and is required by NJ state law.
As you can see choosing a contractor is a little more than going to the yellow pages and
letting your fingers do the walking. You need to do some research and find the best
contractor for you and your project.
You may be able to obtain additional information from the NJ Division of Consumer
Affairs regarding Home Improvement Practices.
Robert Rosendale, C.B.O
Construction Official