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Be Aware of the Following Before Hiring a Contractor For Your Home:

Robert Burke

Sunday, November 18, 2012 • 12:16pm

Over the years, I’ve gathered knowledge through my experience working in the Environmental Consulting and Contracting Industry, as well as through my expertise as co-owner of an insurance agency.

I’ve double checked the information with state regulators.  You must be aware of the following before hiring a contractor to perform any work on your home: 

• The Contractor must be licensed by the State of NJ.
No contractor can obtain a NJ State license without proof of insurance.

• The Contractor must provide you with proof of Insurance for both Commercial General Liability (CGL) and Workman’s Compensation Insurance (WC).
Ideally the contractor should have a $1,000,000 CGL policy and more importantly have Workman’s Compensation Insurance which is a State Law.

• If a contractor does not have Workman’s Compensation and he or one of his workers gets injured on your property, you the home owner will be responsible for any injuries sustained.

Right now in our post-Hurricane circumstances, a worker falling from a tree or roof, or even slipping on your property, could cause themselves serious injury.

Without a current Workman’s Compensation Policy in effect you would have to rely on your Homeowner’s Policy.  Worse case scenario would be that your Homeowner’s Policy will NOT cover any worker’s personal injury and you would then be personally liable for all injury, medical expenses, future loss of work, etc..
This situation would create a law suit and a subsequent lien on your house.

• Even if a contractor tells you that he is insured,  it is your responsibility to obtain proof of insurance.
Ask them for a Certificate of Insurance that states the Issuing Insurance Agencies name and the listed coverage showing CGL and WC.  You should also call the Insurance agency to confirm that their policy is current and up to date.  Ideally you should also ask for a separate certificate listing you as the policy holder for the work being performed on your house.

• With the significant increase in claims to insurance agencies it is obviously taking longer for adjusters to inspect and approve the required work. If there is a fallen tree or any damage that poses further damage or risk or blocks access to or from your home and or its entrance, you can take pictures, document the damage and proceed to have the work done.  Keep in mind that although some Homeowners policies are very good at reimbursement,  their claims departments are overwhelmed and may take longer than usual.  Some may take up to 60 days.

• Remember to check with your insurance company for the limits on certain types of work.
For example,  some policies for tree removal will have a maximum amount paid and require itemized costs for the trees cut down, grinding and carting away.  Make sure you get itemized pricing from your contractor.

• Beware of any contractor that asks what your deductible is on your policy.  He does not need to know this and insurance companies are scrutinizing every claim to make certain there is no padding by the contractor or deals being offered to the home owner.  Insurance fraud is a very serious and punishable crime and strictly enforced in the state of NJ.

• Anyone experiencing water damage that has mold concerns should be careful of contractors trying to instill health fears and telling you that your entire house and contents must be removed. There are inspections and air quality tests that can and should be performed by experienced professionals that hold certifications, training and experience in these matters.

Typically if you have mold caused by water damage the construction repairs that you will eventually have done will rid the building of any materials containing mold.  Prior to the repairs,  any mold or water damaged areas can and should be removed.  Anything porous should be removed and anything non-porous should be disinfected by standard cleaning items clearly labeled for this purpose, such as mold and mildew remover.  These can also be purchased at any store.  It is essential to wear protection when doing this type of cleanup, especially facial masks with OSHA rated filters.

Robert Burke lives in Roseland, NJ .

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