Selecting a Contractor

Tips on Selecting a Contractor

The Building Department frequently receives complaints from disgruntled citizens because of their displeasure with the performance of their contractors. Over the years we have heard a multitude of problems and sad stories.

Based on these we offer the following suggestions:

  • Always get at least three bids on any project. The only exception to this should be for extremely minor, low-cost projects or emergency repairs made by trusted contractors.
  • Never pay for a project in advance. If a contractor asks for total payment up front, you should immediately look for another contractor. Small retainer fees or payments for materials already on the job site may be appropriate.
  • Never use a contractor who suggests that you not obtain required permits or inspections. More than likely, this contractor intends to do work contrary to established safety or structural standards. Additions or alterations to your home that are contrary to city ordinances can drastically affect any title transfers should you decide to sell your home.
  • Be especially wary of contractors who suggest that you obtain permits for work that he is contracted to perform. If you obtain the permit for a contractor, and problems arise because of the work, the official permit record will show that you are the one that performed the work.
  • Always use only licensed contractors. Insist on seeing evidence of a current license. The following trades require a license:
    • Electricians
    • Plumbers
    • Air Conditioning Contractors
    • Irrigation Contractors
  • Always ask for a list of previous jobs similar to your proposed project. Ask for references AND check them.
  • It is a good idea to ask for the address of the contractor's place of business. Take time to drive by his place of business. This will give you a good idea of his business practices.
  • It is a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau or any business organizations that relate to the contractor's trade and check on any complaint records against the contractor.
  • Before your project begins, insist on seeing evidence that the contractor has obtained a permit. During the course of your project monitor your contractor's inspection records. This procedure will protect you from being responsible for code violations that your contractor might commit on your property.
  • When the project is complete, ensure that the City's Building Department has given final approval for the project.


This is not an exhaustive list. It is merely suggestive and you should be sure to perform your own due diligence when working with contractors.