Homeowners associations often have to hire new contractors to do work for them. It may be for a new roof on the community center, repairs to a park, overlaying streets or for some other purpose. When your Association is considering hiring a new contractor, knowing what questions to ask them is vital in these situations.
Questions to ask before the job
As a member of your HOA Board it will be up to you and your fellow Board members to properly vet any company that proposes to do work for you. Asking relevant questions will help ensure the contractor you choose will be able to perform the work. Below are a few questions you will want to ask:
Is the contractor licensed and bonded?
Your HOA Board needs to make sure anyone you hire to do any type of job is licensed and bonded. The requirements for these may vary from state to state but a company that is compliant means they are competent, at least in the eyes of the state. This will add a layer of protection for the Board and your community. It is also wise to check out a company's physical address and telephone number. You can never be too careful when checking up on a contractor.
Do current HOA Board members already have a relationship with a company?
Sometimes your Board members will have a relationship with a company that may do work for your Association. These should be disclosed beforehand. It's wise to ask this question just to make sure there will be no issues or conflict of interest. If a Board member does have a relationship in any way with a contractor it is appropriate that they excuse themselves from any vote related to that contractor.
Is the contractor covered by insurance?
This is a crucial question for your HOA Board to ask. Most states require companies to have liability and worker's compensation coverage. You will want to get copies of their certificates of insurance with the Association or management company as additionally insured, so that you will be notified if there is any change in their insurance. It may be wise to get your insurance professional involved in helping you deal with many of these insurance matters.
Have you researched the contractor?
As part of your review process before hiring a contractor check out the company in as many ways as possible. You can search online databases, get personal recommendations, check out company references and do other things to find out about a contractor. If you have any concerns about past issues and problems, ask them about the matter. Often, recommendations and references can be tainted. Also check with the Better Business Bureau and your state's consumer affairs department. Do your homework! Finally, you may check out your state contractor’s board to find out if there are any issues that may deter you from hiring a particular contractor (i.e. license is suspended, or other outstanding issues).
What is the contractor’s proposed general timeline of the project?
The HOA Board will need to ask for a general timeline of when the work will be performed. You will want to agree on what materials and perhaps methods that the company will use. Of course, the Board will want to review the cost of the project. Any other pertinent questions the Board sees fit to ask are fair game as well. Communicate and understand as much about the project as you can before it's started. This will help avoid potential problems later.
Not every job needs to go through this process. If you have a great relationship with a quality licensed and insured contractor and know that he/she does great work for a fair price, then the Board can probably feel comfortable having this contractor do much of the ongoing maintenance work in the community. Don't waste time and perhaps money when it's not a big deal for the existing contractor to address maintenance issues. For larger projects you will probably want to ask relevant questions, investigate more, and define different aspects of the project in more detail.
There will be times your HOA Board will need to have work done in your community. Knowing the proper questions to ask a contractor can save big headaches later on. Ask and be satisfied with your choice!