Hopf & Higley, P.A.
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Practice Center - Construction Law

Hiring a Contractor

Hiring a contractor is something many, if not most, property or building owners will be faced with at some point. While some owners may want to do construction work themselves, for many, do-it-yourself is not a realistic option. Laws in many communities state that a licensed professional must do certain types of work, such as electrical installation. Most property owners will also conclude that they will, in the long run, save time and money by hiring a professional to do the work.

The relationship between a property owner and a contractor can work smoothly if both parties are willing to take the steps needed to do so. It can also be a contentious one. An attorney with experience in construction law will help you do what is necessary to make sure things go according to plan.

What a Contractor Does

A contractor may be compared to the producer of a movie. It is the contactor's job to make sure everyone else does his or her job and to see that the whole project comes together as a whole. The contractor is responsible for taking the idea of what the property owner wants and turning it into reality.

Your dealings will probably be with a general contractor. The general contractor is the one responsible for the overall completion of the project. Some contractors are able to do all of the work necessary to complete a project. Most projects, however, require workers in several different fields. Constructing a small building, for example, may require carpenters, electricians, plumbers, masons, painters, and many other specialized fields. Most contractors are not able to handle this specialty work themselves. The contractor will then hire subcontractors who deal mostly with the general contractor and not the property owner. It is the general contractor's responsibility to make sure that the subcontractors do their jobs and that the work they do meets the required specifications.

Hiring a Contractor

A contractor is a professional and, just as you would with any other professional you hire, you should proceed carefully before you hire one. Do not hesitate to talk to several different contractors before hiring any one of them. It is important that you be satisfied with the contractor, and confident that he or she will do the work to your satisfaction. Ask for references-most contractors are more than happy to provide you with the names of prior customers who are happy with the work done for them.

As you interview prospective contractors, be wary of the "scam artist." While the vast majority of contractors are honest, there are a number of dishonest operators who should be avoided. You should be able to check with your city or state licensing board to learn if a contractor is licensed. While licensing itself is no guarantee of honesty, the fact that a contractor is operating without a license, probably in violation of the law, should be a cause for alarm. A contractor who is willing to cut corners with legal requirements may also be willing to cut corners on the work he or she does. In addition, you should be able to review the record of complaints filed against a contractor. You should also check the records of lawsuits that may have been filed against the contractor. Lawsuits and complaints are not always an indication that anything is wrong, but a consistent pattern is a warning to dig deeper.

You should also review the bid carefully. Many home improvement disputes come about because the contractor promised more than he or she could deliver. For example, many standard home improvement contracts promise that a job will be completed in ninety days. Those contracts often fail to consider delays caused by the weather, suppliers, or subcontractors. Be sure you understand what the contractor agrees to do, and decide for yourself if the promises are reasonable. An experienced construction law attorney can help you understand the contract, and can help you through any disputes that may arise.


The relationship you have with a contractor is an important one. It is also a relationship that has the potential to create serious legal problems. A construction law attorney can help you avoid construction problems, and can help you resolve any issues quickly and effectively.

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