It seems there is a HVAC contractor on every corner in the Chicagoland area. This could be for any number of reasons including no state licensing, low-cost entry into the business, availability of numerous products and a large base of potential customers (everyone house needs at least heating in Illinois). Because of the sheer number of HVAC contractors in the area and the wide-ranging prices between contractors here are 5 things to ask your HVAC contractor before the project starts to protect you, your investment in equipment and your home.
- Will your contractor provide a current copy of your insurance? This would seem like a no brainer but very few people will ask a contractor to provide this. Most contractors won’t even mention insurance other than passing unless asked. A reputable contractor should be able to provide it to you on the spot. Unlicensed contractors will most likely tell a story about bringing it on the day they come to install the project and then when they arrive they state that they forgot it and may say they are insured and since they are there they should just get started. Do not let them start, there may be a good chance they don’t have insurance. Additionally, if you hire a contractor who doesn’t have insurance you may be in violation of your home owners policy. And if you home owners policy were to cancel because of you hiring an uninsured contractor you may have a difficult time getting another home owners policy, which may make you in default of your mortgage which requires you to maintain home owners insurance.
- Will your contractor be pulling a permit? In most municipalities in the Chicagoland area it is required that a permit be pulled and issued to install a furnace. Most of the furnace permits are issued over the counter, meaning the contractor can go to the municipal agency the morning of the project and get the permit. In the rare circumstance the permit is not issued over the counter, most municipalities will allow work to commence as long as the permit has been applied for. Do not allow your contractor to start an installation without the permit in hand or is willing to allow you to call the municipality to ensure the permit information has been submitted.
- Does your contractor drug test and do a criminal background check on employees? The HVAC industry seems to have very low standards when it comes to employees. Historical averages for the heating and cooling industry show that if a company were to interview a group of 100 people and stress numerous times they are a drug free work place and will conduct a criminal back check, 60 people will instantly remove themselves from proceeding – most likely because they know they will fail one or both parts of this screening. Of the remaining 40 people, only 20 will pass both portions of the drug test and background screening. It shocked me when I learned these numbers! If your contractor doesn’t drug test and background check its employees, would you feel safe with those employees working in your home? I know I wouldn’t.
- Will your contractor provide a physical location? This is very important if something were to go wrong in Illinois. Since there are no state licensing requirements, it means just about anyone who wants to become and HVAC contractor can. This also means that if something goes wrong you the homeowner cannot not file a claim with the state licensing board and your only course of action may be through our legal system. It can be costly to hire an attorney and if your contractor only has a PO Box you will have no way to legally deliver the court documents or a location to track your contractor down. It also means that should you get a judgement you will have no path to track down the assets of the company to attach your claim to.
- Will your contractor guarantee the price, even if something was over looked? This is the tried and true classic in the contracting business. The contractor low balls the price to get the job and once the job is started comes back and says now we need more money because of this or that. Then a bit later comes back and says we never saw this coming and because of this we now need even more money. This model usually ends up costing you more money in the long run than the contractor who looked at all components had a higher initial price but guaranteed the price through to completion. If your contractor won’t guarantee the price, it’s best you look for another contractor.
These 5 simple questions can save you in the long run and help you select the most qualified contractor for your project.