Selecting a Contractor Podcast Transcript


Welcome to the Informed Consumer-the latest tips and tools about consumer issues to assist consumers in making informed decisions from the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch.

Today’s topic is: Selecting a Contractor Before You Sign a Contract.

Are you planning on hiring a home improvement contractor to do some much needed improvements to your home? Consumer Affairs can help by providing advice and education so that you make the right choices.

Here are some helpful steps you should take to do before selecting a contractor:

•Obtain recommendations, references, and research each contractor to find out if other consumers are satisfied. When a contractor provides references, call the references and go to the site to inspect the contractor’s work.
•When inspecting the work at another site, ask the property owner if the contractor gave them a monetary discount or payment in exchange for being used as a reference.
•Write down the address of each job reference, then contact the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services’ Permits Branch at 703-324-1555 to verify whether a permit was obtained for any address used as a reference by a contractor, and that the work passed inspection.
•Ask the contractor how long this company has been in business. If the contractor’s business is less than five years old, ask for a reference from the contractor’s previous employer.
•And ask friends or neighbors for referrals.

You need to do the following research to make sure this is the contractor you want to do business with:

•Search the Consumer Affairs Complaint History files online at to locate any complaints previously filed against a contractor.
•Verify that the contractor has a current business license through Fairfax County by contacting the Fairfax County Department of Tax Administration at 703-222-8234.

•Confirm that the contractor has obtained a contractor’s license from the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. Contractors must be licensed to perform work for contracts over one thousand dollars. To obtain this information you should call the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation at
804-367-8500 and get the following information.
•The contractor’s valid license number
•The date the contractor received the license.
•The expiration date on the license
•The name and address listed on the license
•And finally, check to see if any disciplinary actions were taken against the contractor.

After researching the contractor’s license information, you need to protect your home against any liability.

•Ask for a copy of the contractor’s personal injury liability insurance policy. If the contractor’s employees or subcontractors are injured on your property, you do not want to risk being sued. This could result in an increase in your insurance premium and/or loss of insurance.
•Call the contractor’s insurance agent or company to verify that the policy is in force and obtain the expiration date. If the expiration date of the contract proceeds the date that work will be completed on your contract, you should request that the contractor insert a paragraph agreeing that all personal injury liability insurance will be kept in force until work is completed.
•Make sure that you have completed the appropriate paperwork with your homeowner’s association for approval of the home improvement work, if applicable.

Now you are ready to select your home improvement contractor. After signing the contract you should:

•Make a minimal deposit.
•Don’t let the payments get ahead of work,
•Keep records of all payments,
•Verify that all permits have been obtained by contacting Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services and monitor the project to be sure all work passes inspection,
•And before making the final payment, get copies of warranties for materials and workmanship, and make sure you are satisfied with the work.

Selecting a contractor to perform work on your home is a major decision. Be smart! Do your homework!

Thanks for listening to the Consumer Affairs Branch Informed Consumer. For more information on this topic, please contact us at 703-222-8435 or visit our web site at Informed Consumer is produced by the Fairfax County, Virginia, government.

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