Horrific contractor stories are becoming all too common. Most homeowners fear that it is impossible to find a quality contractor in the area, especially with the growing number of scams being reported by the Illinois Attorney General. The fact is, you can dramatically decrease the chances you'll deal with a bad contractor just by doing a little research - and understanding what makes a contractor great.
Illinois does not require general contractors or carpenters to have a special license - and there is no test or qualification required. That means anyone can call themselves a "contractor." While the state doesn't require licensing, local municipalities (such as Chicago) do require licenses. Therefore, if a contractor tells you they are not required by the state to be licensed, they could still be breaking the law for their city.
Before hiring a contractor, make sure they're licensed. You can check through your city as well as the EPA's list of licensed contractors.
Liability insurance is what protects your home, belongings and the project itself. Ask to see a certificate of insurance from the contractor to ensure they are covered.
Review the Better Business Bureau
Check a contractor's reputation online and see what complaints have been lodged against them by visiting the local Better Business Bureau website.
Know Your Rights
A good contractor will tell you about your rights as a homeowner. And, if your bid is more than $1,000, the state of Illinois requires a contractor to provide you with a brochure stating those rights. You can find a full list of rights on the Illinois Attorney General website.
Price Should Never be Your #1 Concern
A reputable contractor understands not only your rights, but the licensing, permits, insurance and other specialty requirements for their field. Keeping up to date with these requirements, purchasing the necessary insurance, etc. all costs a good contractor money. To put the highest standards in place, a good contractor will have higher operational costs - but that extra money should be looked at as peace of mind. Because by paying the extra funds for a reputable contractor, you know you're hiring someone you can trust to work in your home and complete the project.