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Tip #268:  Friend or Foe?

 If you’re like most landlords, you want a maintenance man at your employ for all those day-to-day, low-skill fixes. But sometimes you need to hire independent contractors because of their skill and speed in completing jobs, which is especially useful in an emergency.

Contractors come from many backgrounds — gardeners, electricians, plumbers. The work they provide can help or hurt your investment depending on how effectively the work is performed.

You don’t want to rush to judgment when it comes to hiring a contractor, because a bad contractor — just like a bad tenant — will increase your costs and liability. You need someone you can depend on to do the job correctly and efficiently.
Here are a few things to consider:

Verify that they are licensed and have proper insurance. Insurance is a lifesaver. If you hire a contractor that isn’t licensed, your property insurance may not cover damage cause by a bad repair. It’s nice to know that if something goes wrong you have someone to hold accountable who is insured against their own mistakes. Being licensed and insured is usually a sign of a contractor who takes their work seriously and is trying to prove that they are a professional, and that’s what you’re paying extra for — professional repairs.

Check references. This is a really good idea, especially if you have to hire someone who isn’t local. You can ask for references from the contractor, or look online to see if there are any negative rants or ratings. You might also ask people in your circle if they can refer you a trusted contractor for whatever repairs you’er facing.

Never pay in full until the work is completed. Don’t set yourself up by trusting a contractor too much. This also means that it is generally unwise to pay in cash. You should think about writing a check to their company name. Keeping paperwork is essential. Always have everything written up on an invoice and signed. Include a detailed description of the work to be performed as well of a list of specific materials and equipment to be used.

Independent contractors are a great way to repair your dwellings quickly and correctly, but make sure you’re not putting yourself into a situation that is going to take a chunk out of your investment.

See last week’s Landlord Quick Tip.

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