Every homeowner should base their choice of contractor on experience, references and above
all, confidence in the company. Going for the lowest bid is always tempting, but it is best to beware
of the "low ball" bid. Unlicensed contractors can underbid licensed contractors because often they
don't have the expenses of a contractor's license, a city license or other insurance and expenses
licensed contractors have. Sometimes, their workmanship can also be inadequate and their
materials inferior. They may also disappear as soon as they've been paid, leaving the homeowner
with no address for them and no recourse.
Ask to see their current license and insurance. Most states require that contractors be licensed. In
Illinois, a contractor is also required to be both insured and bonded. Contractors are required to
maintain a bond, which gives you some protection, if only minimal, against any willful violations on
the part of the contractor. More important, though, is to make sure the contractor is reputable and
performs quality work.
Ask for references. This can be one of your most valuable resources. You can ask specific
questions about the contractor such as, "Was the job done in a timely manner?" “Was the work
satisfactory?" “Would you refer the contractor to friends or family?"
- Be wary if you're asked to pay for the entire job in advance.
- If you're rebuilding after a fire or other disaster, don't abandon your former prudence for
the sake of rapid rebuilding. A disaster brings out unscrupulous contractors and repairmen
who seize the opportunity to con victims caught with their guard down.
Signing the Contract
First, realize that anything you sign may constitute a contract, so be sure you know what you are
signing. Before you sign a final contract, be sure it includes the following information and
- The name, street address (not just a post office box), and local telephone number (not
just a toll-free number) of the contractor;
- If you must obtain a loan from the contractor to pay for the project, the agreement is valid
only if you obtain financing at a given rate;
- A written description of all work to be done, including a detailed description of the kind and
quality of materials to be used;
- A bid based on the job, not by the unit (hour, gallon, board, etc.)
- The schedule for releasing payments to the contractor;
- A written statement reiterating any oral promises made by the contractor or sales
representative, including any warranties on materials or labor;
- If you want changes after you’ve signed the contract, be sure they are spelled out in a
signed "change order."
- If your contract was solicited at your home or some other place that is not the contractor's
place of business or appropriate trade premises, you have the legal right to cancel your
contract within three business days after you sign it. Your contractor is required to
notify you of this right.
- The State of Illinois Attorney General's Office requires homeowners to receive from the
contractor a copy of the pamphlet "Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights". Your
contractor is required to give you this pamphlet.
- That the contractor will obtain the necessary building permits.
A building permit is generally required whenever structural work is involved or when the basic
living area of a home is to be changed. If your contract does not provide that the contractor will
obtain the permits and he doesn't, you may be held legally responsible.
The contractor's work is inspected at the completion of each phase of the renovation.
Without a permit:
- Your municipality can stop your project immediately and you could wait months for a
- it is possible that liability insurance policies will not be honored.
Finally, don't sign a completion certificate until you're satisfied that the job has been properly
completed according to the contract and until inspection has been completed by local building