Property maintenance is a massive part of a landlord’s success in the rental management industry. Whether you look after your portfolio or work with a management firm, a time will come when licensed contractors are needed. Therefore, creating a reliable process for screening contractors will aid in narrowing down your search and finding the best person for the job. Continue reading as we examine what to look for in potential vendors, top questions to ask, and state requirements needed in your area.
Qualities to Look for When Hiring Contractors and Vendors
- Reputation: A business’s reputation is more accessible to check than ever, thanks to modern technology. Google reviews, Facebook groups, and even Yelp offer avenues to gain insight on potential vendors. Pay special attention to reviews that mention a business or individual’s reliability, value, communication, and overall experience.
- Willingness to answer questions: As a property owner, you are likely to have tons of questions, and it’s important to know that that is ok. Of course, experienced and business-minded contractors know this and therefore are prepared to answer any questions you may have. If you come across an individual unwilling to answer or evasive with your questions, stoop there and continue your search.
- Attention to detail: Professional appearances extend beyond just the individual themselves. So, as you go through your first meeting, please pay attention to their company vehicles and any print materials, as well as the contractor’s appearance. Therefore, how they conduct themselves and care for their equipment can give you a glimpse into how they will treat your home and their level of organization.
- Promptness: Everyone knows that first impressions are lasting impressions. So, if the contractor does not show up or is late for your very first meeting, move on! Ultimately, if you allow this behavior before even hiring them, ask yourself what precedent you are creating.
Warning Signs to Look Out for While Screening Contractors
Interviewing potential vendors can be a tedious process. That said, there are some telltale signs to watch out for. If you find or experience any of these things below, steer clear!
- Contractors with no public listings or presence
- Demanding large payments upfront, outside what is allowed by state regulation
- Vendors insisting on cash-only transactions
Top Screening Questions to Ask Potential Contractors
Once you have researched to compile a shortlist of potential vendors, it is time to interview. Whether you have one property or several rental properties, create additional challenges for contractors. As you are screening contractors, ensure they are comfortable and seem confident dealing with both owners and tenants. Check out these suggestions below for what essential questions to ask.
- What types of jobs do you do?: Companies often specialize in different kinds of repairs or projects. Try to gauge the individual’s interest and ability in your project needs. For rental properties, contractors that offer a wide variety of general services are best.
- How many employees do you have and what is the company structure?: The size and infrastructure may be an indication of how established and capable the company is. The benefit of having support employees such as administrative or accounting is that time is freed up for the contractors themselves.
- Does your company handle all work, or do you use sub-contractors?: Time is money when it comes to renovations, and having a contractor that can handle the job within their team is best. This allows for better control over both time and budget. If the company does occasionally use sub-contractors, ascertain the criteria they use for hiring them. Any individuals in your home must be licensed and insured.
- Can I see an example of your written contract? Pennsylvania law deems that a written agreement must accompany projects over $500. This contract is signed by the homeowner and must include a description of the job, approximate start and completion date, plus the total cost of the project. Property owners should also look for a provision that affords them the right to cancel the contract.
Additional Screening Questions to Consider
- What warranties do you offer?: It is an important asset to have a professional contractor that provides assurances on their completed work. Inquire about what warranties they offer, what is covered, for how long, and their process for follow-up should an issue arise. Securities offered may vary based on the scope of the project, but regardless, these should always be in writing.
- What insurance do you carry? Pennsylvania law requires contractors to maintain a minimum of $50,000 of personal injury liability coverage and $50,000 of property damage coverage. Ideally, the contractor you hire will have a policy well above this limit.
- Can I speak to a client reference? Client references can offer valuable insight into potential contractors. If a vendor does not have or is unwilling to provide this information, it may be time to move on to another choice.
Tips for Checking Vendor References
You can learn a lot, both good and bad, from previous customer references. Therefore, do not skip this vital step and write down some key points you’d like to know more about. Open-ended questions are best focusing on their overall satisfaction, delays, and how they were handled, and staying on a budget; all are crucial factors. However, it can be overwhelming to reach out to someone you do not know, so take a look at these suggested talking points below.
What kind of project did the contractor perform?
- How did the contractor keep you informed about the progress of your project?
- How did they leave your home looking at the end of the day?
- What were their typical working hours?
- What did you dislike about their process?
- Did the project stay on budget? If not, how did the contractor approach this with you?
- Are there any areas you believe they could improve on?
- Would you hire them again? Why or why not?
What Licensing is Needed for Contractors?
In Pennsylvania, there are several types of contractors that have license requirements, but not every kind of vendor needs one. It is also important to note that the law does not require contractors to disclose their license information. However, most reputable contractors will have no problem doing so, and they are required to list their registration numbers on advertisements, contracts, and estimates. Additionally, Pennsylvania offers a convenient contractor search tool where the public can search for consumer information on a given business.
Types of Contractors that Require Licensing
Home Improvement Vendors
- Contractors must register with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office
- Vendors need to maintain minimum insurance coverage
- Businesses and individuals are required to use contracts that comply with consumer protection requirements
- Types of vendors under home improvement include:
- Repair or construction replacement, remodeling, demolition, removal, renovation, installation, alteration, conversion, modernization, improvement
- Installation or modification of driveways
- Installing of swimming pools, pool houses, porches, garages, roofs, siding, insulation, solar energy systems, security systems
- Flooring, patios, fences, gazebos, sheds, cabanas,
- Doors, windows, and waterproofing
- Installation of central heating, air conditioning
- Contractors must be certified by the Certification, Accreditation and Licensing Division at the Department of Labor and Industry
Lead Paint Removal
- Vendors in this specialty must have certification from the Certification, Accreditation and Licensing Division at the Department of Labor and Industry
Interested in Becoming a Vendor with Bay Property Management Group?
It is now easier than ever, thanks to our convenient online vendor application to begin the process. At Bay Property Management Group, our goal is to build strong professional relationships with contractors and provide the best prices and customer service to our clients. For company requirements and more information, please visit our website to fill out our online vendor application.
Looking for a Trusted Vendor for Your Rental Properties?
The tips above will aid in creating a solid process for screening contractors and narrow down your search. Not every landlord has the time to interview and thoroughly screen vendors. If that’s you, consider hiring a professional property management company! Bay Property Management Group can handle all of your maintenance needs thanks to both trained in-house staff and a bank of trusted local vendors. Our dedicated property managers handle all communications and coordination between vendors and tenants, so you can sit back and relax. Contact us today for a free consultation and find out what our team can do to maximize your investment property.