What Does Bonded and Insured Mean Exactly?

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Home Improvement

There are numerous search engines, ads and sites dedicated to helping us find the housekeeper, handyman or contractor we might need. Hiring professionals found on the internet is common place, and it is a great way to find the right person for the job. It can also be a disaster. How do you hire the right contractor or handyman if you don't know what credentials they should have? I mean, you're calling them in to do something because you can't, or you don't know how. You want to make sure the job gets done right, and you aren't robbed, literally or figuratively in the process. 

0. Yes, zero. Research. Determine what type of professional you need. Can a handyman fix it, or do you need a licensed specialist? Generally, you can schedule a free estimate and if a license or permit is required they will let you know. If you'd rather determine the requirements yourself, you can go to your state, county or city website and find information. You can also call your local Bureau of Development or City Planner's Office and they can point you in the right direction. You don't want an inspector showing up and stopping your project because permits or license requirements are not being met.

1. Beginning your search

First, a regular search for the professional you need you will give you ad results first. Those ads will give you a few hints, if you see that they are boasting "Licensed," "Bonded," or "Insured" pay attention. This typically means that your area may require a license and/or special insurance for certain professions. Bonding is a different process with a different purpose from insurance, and I'll cover that in a minute. 

2. Get a referral from someone that knows

Real estate brokers use a multitude of maintenance and building services and work with these types of professionals all the time. They can often give you a few to pick from, and in most cases can let you know if your local codes and regulations require permits for certain jobs. They can provide references for professionals they have used multiple times, and can help you with local contacts for regulations and building codes.

3. Don't just hire the first person to respond

Get estimates, compare services and costs! Any time a business is going to contract to have a job done they require at least three estimates. Why? Because they want to compare them and see what they are going to be paying for, and also to gather information. If one contractor says you don't need a permit, but the other two say you do...you see what I'm getting at. If you get multiple estimates you have more than one opportunity to talk to someone about your questions and gather lots of great information. Meeting several people will also give you the opportunity to find a professional whose personality matches yours, which can make the process more enjoyable and reduce the likelihood of unnecessary stress.

4. The difference between Bonded and Insured

Insurance covers the business when something goes wrong, but a bond covers the consumer when the business goes wrong. If you're hiring a contractor, a housekeeper, and in some cases a handyman, you want them to be insured so that the employees and the work site, (your home) are properly insured. You also want them to be bonded in some cases, (requirements for bonding differ and may not be available for some professionals.) A bond can cover shoddy work, theft, incomplete projects and a whole mess of situations that can leave you very unhappy. A bonded professional also has to meet strict requirements to get the bond, which assures that you're working with a professional that cares about their work. Make sure to get the bond information, so that if something goes wrong you can contact the surety company that holds the bond directly.