Hiring an unlicensed contractor...

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Asked By: 
Kady

There is a contractor my partner and I would like to hire to do several small projects in our home (i.e., interior painting, installing a railing on my front stairs, tiling a bathroom, etc.). The contractor does not have insurance (other than medical). Although most of the projects are rather simple, how can we protect ourselves if he were to damage the house or get injured while on the job? Is there a waiver of some sort we should have him sign? We do have homeowners insurance but filing a claim would be our last resort. Thanks for your assistance!

Answer: 
Your gut instincts are correct. It can be very tricky, and sometimes costly, hiring someone who does not have insurance. Our first recommendation is that you should only hire someone who is insured. This way your liability is better protected. You may also want to check with your homeowner's policy since coverage provisions may change from state and even by carrier. Sometimes calling your local city or county building inspector will give you a lot of helpful homeowner information, and even whether or not you will need a building permit. Keep in mind the worse case scenarios: the contractor damages your home; the contractor is severely hurt on the job; the contractor doesn't finish the job. Even insisting on the contractor to sign a waiver may not protect you. There are many examples of homeowners losing to contractors in court with similar circumstances. For the few dollars you could save using this contractor, it's better to spend the extra money for peace of mind. If you really want to save some money, however, you could always be a Jane and take some of the projects on yourself! You said the tasks were simple, so this may be the perfect opportunity for you to assert your inner Jane. There is such an overwhelming since of pride to work on your own home and say, "Hey! I put that railing in myself!" Not to mention your friends will be impressed. Like anything in life, if you take it one step at a time, it can be done. Should you not have the time to do it yourself, please take our advice and find a licensed, insured contractor. Be sure to ask to see his/her proof of insurance and/or contractor's license as well. It just saves you money and peace of mind in the end. Let us know how your projects turn out!(ps. you may want to check into some of the online "handyman" networks....such as www.handymannetwork.com, www.handymanondemand.com, or www.servicemagic.com)
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