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Tips on finding the right contractor

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Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 1:15 pm

Need to find a state licensed contractor for a home project? There’s a website for that.

The Contractors State License Board has made it easy to not only cull through the estimated 300,000 who can provide services, but check to see whether a contractor is truly licensed. Visit checkthelicensefirst.com for more information.

Meanwhile, the state board has issued a consumer alert about hiring contractors from advertisements posted on the popular craigslist website.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors are breaking the law every day with their illegal advertisements, according to spokeswoman Venus Stromberg.

Craigslist has been largely unresponsive to repeated requests to address the growing problem, she said.

Before you decide to hire a contractor, meet with at least three in person and ask for references. Then you can visit their work on your own time.

Once you’ve found the perfect contractor, here are some tips provided by the Contractors State License Board to insure the work goes smoothly:

• Never pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less.

• Don’t pay in cash.

• Make sure all project expectations are in writing and only sign the contract if you completely understand the terms. Contractors are required to provide both written bids and contracts.

The biggest complaint the Contractors State License Board receives: Contractors not delivering the service the customer anticipated.

“Usually it’s becasuse of unmet expectations because the contract wasn’t detailed enough, or because the change orders aren’t in writing,” Stromberg said.

• Keep a job file of all papers relating to your project, including all payments.

• Confirm the contractor’s workers compensation insurance policy for employees, and ask about liability insurance to cover any property damage.

• Don’t let payments get ahead of the work. By law, contractors can only ask for $1,000 or 10 percent of a job’s cost, whichever is lower.

• Don’t make the final payment until you’re completely satisfied with the job.

All licensed contractors are listed on the state’s website: cslb.ca.gov/Consumers/HireAContractor/. The site includes whether the license is active and whether there have been any actions against the license, and also includes a list of frequently asked questions about projects.

But before any work is started, be sure to check with your local jurisdiction to see if you need a building permit. Many projects, even small ones, such as installing a water heater, require them. In Lodi, call 209-333-6711, Galt, 209-366-7200 and San Joaquin County, 209-468-2098.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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