8 Steps to Vet Construction Subcontractors

subcontractorAs a general contractor, it’s likely that you’ll use subcontractors at some point. Subcontractors can be an efficient way to outsource work. As specialists, they’ll often do a better job than a generalist and their smaller size means they can work quicker and leaner.

However, the construction job is your responsibility. The performance of the subcontractor will reflect on you. To complete the job properly and satisfy your customer, you need to make sure your subcontractors will produce quality work in a timely manner.

Before you officially hire any subcontractors, protect your business and your customer by taking these steps to vet the subcontractor.

1. Examine their past and current performance

Request information from the potential customer about their licenses, accreditations, history, and references. Look for any public data on lawsuits, disputes, complaints, or bankruptcies. Ask for the contact information of previous contractors they worked for. Then, search for references independently (without the subcontractor’s involvement) to get some unbiased and unfiltered information.

2. Look at their queue of work

It’s smart to make sure potential subcontractors can actually complete the work you need, so you’ll want to examine their log of previous, current, and future work. If the subcontractor seems too busy for their size, your job might overextend them.

3. Ask about their safety practices

Unsafe operations can leave you exposed to liability and force an inspector to close the job site, so make sure any subcontractors have clean or reasonable safety histories. They should also have ample safety protocols in place and a crew who is coached to prioritize safety.

4. Investigate the subcontractor’s employees

Ask the subcontractor about their team. Are they temporary workers, or do they work full time? Have they worked in construction before, or are they new? Does the subcontractor have the proper number of licensed professionals for the site? Do the workers have the right tools and reasonable workloads? Do any have serious felonies or drug problems that might make them unreliable? Answers to these questions will determine whether the subcontractor is right for your job.

5. Validate bonding and insurance

In most states, contractors are required to have bonding. In all states, they must be insured, including worker’s compensation insurance. If the subcontractor doesn’t have these protections in place, you could be held liable if there’s a problem. If the subcontractor doesn’t have these, reject them as candidates.

6. Investigate the subcontractor’s financial health

If your job is large, you’ll want to make sure the subcontractor’s financials are healthy enough to commit. You don’t want their employees to walk off the site one day due to lack of payment, or an inability to purchase materials. Request their annual contractor volume, two years of financial statements, and their total sales and net worth (you might have to sign a confidentiality agreement). Look for signs of poor health, like poor cash flow, a mountain of debt, or declining income.

7. Ask about their quality control process

In order to avoid rework and warranty work, you want your subcontractors to certify the quality of their materials and finished work. Every professional business should have a procedure in place to guarantee quality assurance. This procedure is rarely complex, but a successful business will have an answer to your questions.

8. Demand a written contract

It is shocking how many people work without a written agreement. As a contractor who is purchasing labor, you need to protect your investment. Every deal should be bound by a contract that clearly describes your expectations, including the scope of work, timeframe, and payment arrangements. Describe what you will provide and what the subcontractor will provide in terms of materials, warranties, and cleanup.

Hiring a subcontractor is like hiring an employee: You want someone who will represent your business well without adding drama, stress, or financial burden. If you follow the steps listed above, you’ll find the right candidate and build a lasting relationship.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Managing Home Renovation Risks

Managing Home Renovation RisksHome renovations are on the rise; In fact, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University’s Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), annual home improvement spending growth is expected to increase from 2.4% in the last quarter of 2015 to 6.8% in the second quarter of 2016.  Bolstered by 2015’s favorable housing market condition, which included new construction, price gains and sales, homeowners are investing in improvements to their homes.

If you’re finally tackling that kitchen remodel or adding an in-law suite, don’t wait to think about the risks that come with home renovations.  Here are four tips to make sure you’re protected before your project even gets underway:

  • Vet Your Contractor & Subcontractors – Take your time choosing a general contractor, who orchestrates your entire project.  Beyond just word-of-mouth and online reviews, ask to speak with former clients who had similar renovation projects and check the contractor’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau.  As you’re choosing your general contractor, also be sure to get their license number and verify it.  Additionally, ask to see a copy of their insurance policy (and don’t be afraid to call their carrier) and make sure they have adequate coverage, including worker’s compensation to cover any workers who could be hurt on the job.  Beyond coverage, also make sure you’re aware of everyone who will be working in your home every day and, if needed, run background checks. 
  • Get It In Ink – Didn’t think through the removal and disposal of your old appliances?  Don’t rely on verbal agreements or side conversations for any aspect of your renovation.  Make sure you get an estimate and proposed contract from your general contractor before the project begins and that everything is covered, including the timeline, payment details and how you’ll address approvals and any unexpected projects and costs. 
  • Check Your Coverage - Contact your insurance agent to talk through your renovation and make sure you understand your coverage.  If there are any gaps in coverage for your contractor or subcontractors, make sure speak with your insurance agent about that as well, as you may need to extend the limits of liability in your homeowners policy. 
  • Protect Your (New) Investment –If you’re adding onto your home, don’t wait until it’s complete to increase the insurance coverage on the structure of your home, as you may not be covered if the addition is destroyed or damaged before your coverage has increased.  Similarly, if you purchase new items like that baby grand piano you’ve been wanting or new TVs or furniture to fill your new space, also make sure you let your insurance agent know in case you need to increase your coverage for personal possessions.

A home renovation can be financially and emotionally stressful.  However, at Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, we’re here to help ensure you’re protected and covered and starting your renovation on a solid foundation.

Stephen Davis

sdavis@srfm.com

Sinclair Risk& Financial Management

Managing Home Renovation Risks