When your building or association is faced with an exterior maintenance or repair job, it’s important that you don’t just hire the first contractor who comes along; carrying out your due diligence can make the difference between working cooperatively with a contractor to get the project completed on time and on budget, or winding up with partial or poorly-done work and a mess of legal problems after the fact.
Exterior contractors are a breed all their own. Those who specialize in masonry, painting, paving, heck, even the big dogs like architects and engineers, need certain qualifications in order to perform their work competently. A condominium or homeowners’ association board depends on these professionals, and cannot go into any project, half-cocked, without fear of betraying its fiduciary duty to ownership. This means that boards need to solicit multiple bids from vendors, thoroughly vet contenders before hiring, and stay on top of every aspect of a project as it progresses, lest something go awry. How does a board do this, exactly? Well, that’s what we intend to find out.
In order to properly vet an exterior contractor, it helps to know which municipal, city and state regulations govern them. And while qualifications required vary depending on a particular contractor’s trade or even the locality, requiring a board to bring a modified checklist to any new project, there are certainly some basic guidelines upon which to rely.
“Just starting on the city of Chicago level, the Department of Buildings is the entity that will issue a license to a general contractor,” explains Keith Hales, president of Chicago-based Hales Property Management. “Contractors should have licenses [either general or for their specialized trade, when applicable] from Chicago, the state of Illinois, their businesses should be registered, and they should have the proper insurances. And also, it’s worth noting that, in Illinois, any property managers that are coordinating this work must have their community association manager, or CAM, license.”
Doing the Work
While it’s certainly important that a professional prove his or her qualifications, having passed a series of tests does not a good contractor make. “It doesn’t take a lot to get licensed, whether state or local, and it’s not necessarily the best indicator as to whether a contractor will perform well in any given circumstance,” says Jeffrey S. Youngerman, an attorney with the law firm of Flaherty & Youngerman in Chicago.