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Contractor Complaints

In January 2009, the Board of County Commissioners approved a Contractor Licensing Resolution for Larimer County. The Resolution requires licensing of building contractors conducting business in unincorporated Larimer County.

The Resolution requires contractors to pass standard industry exams and/or show proof of adequate experience as well as liability insurance. The effective date of the new Resolution is September 1, 2009.

In addition to the contractor licensing program, the State of Colorado handles consumer fraud actions. Below is a list of helpful contacts for contractor complaints:

  1. Consumer assistance and complaint mediation through the Colorado Attorney General's "Consumer Hot Line". Call (303) 866-5189 or 1-800-332-2071.
  2. Consumer Protection Association of America (970) 484-9008.
  3. City of Fort Collins Contractor Licensing Program: (970) 221-6767.
  4. Homebuilders Association of Northern Colorado, P.O. Box 669, Windsor, Colorado 80550-0669; (970) 686-2798.
  5. Colorado Association of Home Builders, 1776 S. Jackson St. #412, Denver, Colorado 80210; (303) 691-2242; Fax (303) 639-4954.
  6. National Association of Homebuilders, 1201 15th N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005-2800.
  7. Better Business Bureau, Serving Mountain States-Northern Colorado, East & Central Wyoming, 1730 S. College Avenue, Suite 303, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525-1073; (970) 484-1348 24 hours; Fax: (970) 221-1239; www.rockymtn.bbb.org

Quick Tips Before Hiring A Contractor

(Excerpts taken from "How to Hire the Best" article appearing in This Old House, October 2005 Issue):

  • References: Ask any contractor you're considering for at least five references; contact at least three (but ignore the first one . . . it's usually the brother-in-law). The closer the projects are in scope and style to your own, the better. Get previous clients to give you details of the contractor's dependability and workmanship, how he handled problems, whether the budget stayed intact, and if work progressed on or close to schedule. Bottom line question: Would you hire the same person again?
  • Assessing Bids: The low bid isn't likely to be top-quality construction, and the high bid isn't a guarantee of the best work . . . general contractor Tom Silva generally tosses out the lowest and the highest bids, figuring that the ones in the middle are the most realistic. Discuss up front how the contractor expects to be paid. Payments for large projects are typically spread out over three to six intervals, based on various completion benchmarks. The first payment is a deposit and seals the deal. The last is usually 10 to 15 percent of the total, delivered upon your approval of the project. Beware of anyone who demands cash payments; you won't have any proof of how much you've handed over. A contractor who asks for his full fee up front is probably a crook.
  • The Contract: Every project, no matter how small, should be covered by a contract. It should include the basics-start date, end date, cost-as well as a clause stating the work will conform to applicable building codes. The project description should be as detailed as possible. For example, a deck contract might specify: "Demolish old deck and build new 10x 12 deck." Better would be: "Remove old deck, dispose of debris, excavate site as needed, install new footings, posts, and handrails to code, decking to be 2x6 cedar, custom knotty grade, nailed per code and finished with two coats of penetrating sealant."
  • Answers You Need Up Front: The bigger the project, the more answers you need up front. Here's a checklist of 10 essential questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line:
    • Timing-How long will it take?
    • Experience-How many projects like this have you done before?
    • Supervision-Who's keeping an eye on my project?
    • Permits-Will you obtain all necessary permits?
    • Collaboration-Have you worked with my architect before?
    • Housekeeping-How will you protect my house and my family during construction?
    • Change Orders-What happens if I change my mind about something?
    • Liability-Do you carry liability insurance and worker's compensation insurance?
    • Warranty-Do you guarantee your workmanship?
    • Contact-How can I reach you?
  • If Things Go Wrong: Many "problems" are simply misunderstandings that can be resolved through discussion. If that doesn't work, put your concerns in writing and ask the contractor for a written response. Consult your contract. A good contract will not only specify materials and standards for workmanship but will also note how disputes should be handled-for instance, by an independent mediator or through a more formal process of binding arbitration.