How to Screen a Handyman

Phone three different handymen. Make sure that at least one of them is a licensed contractor or handyman franchise.

Questions to ask when interviewing a handyman:

  • Are you licensed and by whom?
  • Do you do the work yourself or if you use workers, are they bonded?
  • What type of training and supervision do these workers have?
  • Do you have liability insurance and what are the insurance limits?
  • Do you carry workmans compensation insurance for your workers?
  • What is your hourly rate? Any minimums?
  • How large a deposit will you require?
  • Do you charge for travel time?
  • How long have you been in business and what type of experience do you have?
  • Do you have references?

Regarding their answers:

  • If they were not licensed, are they willing to take on a job that is larger than the law allows for an unlicensed handyman? You will have limited or no recourse at all if the worker you hired was working outside of the law. In many states it is illegal to hire a worker to do illegal work.
  • Did a real person answer the phone? If you left a message, how soon did they get back to you? This will help you to know if they will be available if a problem arises.
  • Do their charges seem to be too high or too low? It’s usually better to go with the bid that seems more reasonable, falling somewhere in the middle.
  • Were they asking to be paid in cash and did they want a large deposit in order to start the work? Never pay a large deposit to someone before the work has begun.
  • Were they willing to supply references? Did they hesitate or were they willing to send them right over to you. Call the references.

How to cover yourself when hiring a handyman:

  • Never pay a large deposit to start the work. The legal limit in many areas is $1000 or 10% of the work to be done, whichever is less.
  • Make payment only after the job has been completed to your satisfaction. Pay by check.
  • Realize that liability insurance policies for handymen, often called Artisan Policies will exclude from coverage work that was outside the handyman’s legal scope.
  • If you’re concerned about letting an unknown person into your home, let a trusted neighbor or a friend know of your plans and have them be there with you. Don’t work with unknown or unproven individuals and trust your gut.
  • Take a picture of the worker in front of the work that they are doing on the pretense of keeping a scrap book of repairs to the house.
  • Consider purchasing materials for the job yourself and have them waiting on site before the work begins.
  • Get a receipt for payments made and be sure it has the full name and address of the person you are paying.

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