How To Choose a Reliable General Contractor
By Terry Brooks, Exovations of Atlanta
Why use a state-licensed contractor in Georgia?
It’s the law. The “good ole boy” and “hand shake agreement” days are over in Georgia.
In my 24 years’ experience, I’ve found that many homeowners don’t know the difference between a state-licensed contractor and a contractor holding only a local business license. This is like comparing night to day. Just about anyone with a business checking account and $100 can get a local business license and call themselves a contractor.
But this is not the case for the Georgia State General Contractor License. Any remodel work that costs over $2,500 requires a state license to contract and perform. If a homeowner chooses to work with a non-state licensed contractor for a higher-end job, the contract might be unenforceable if there are problems. That means lost time and money to the homeowner, as well as still having a project to complete.
Who is required to hold a state license?
As of July 2008, a license from the Georgia State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors is required for someone to call himself a general contractor, and his or her services aren’t limited to any specific type of work. However, work costing less than $2,500 does not require a state-licensed contractor.
The only exception is any work which falls under the licensing requirements of Chapter 14 of this title, which cannot be performed unless the general contractor has an additional license. Chapter 14 protects homeowners, renters and others against faulty and unsafe electrical, plumbing, utility and HVAC contracting and installation.
How does a contractor qualify to take the examination for a state license?
Because the license’s main purpose is to protect consumers, the procedure is thorough. Before even taking the exam, an individual must:
- Complete the application
- Prove that he or she possesses good character and is otherwise qualified in:
o Financial responsibility
- List all individuals, entities and business organizations affiliated with the applicant as a licensed general contractor, including employers, owners, directors, partners or members
- Provide proof of general liability insurance of at least $500,000 and of workers´ compensation insurance in the applicant’s name
- Provide social security number/s
- Verify current state and federal tax payments
Once a contractor is licensed, he or she must maintain licensure and insurance coverage; any lapse in insurance or licensure could mean non-renewal. If any information required to be on file changes – including current mailing address, insurance coverage and affiliations – the licensee must notify the general contractor division in writing within 30 days. For more information, see: http://www.sos.georgia.gov/plb/contractors/Lower%20Tier%20Notice.pdf
It is always your best and safest choice to do business with a legal, credible and financially sound state-licensed contractor, even when contracting on projects costing less than $2,500. This ensures that you are dealing with someone who has gone through rigorous background, criminal, moral and financial worthiness checks by the state of Georgia.
Always do your research on any contractor you consider to perform work on your home, keeping in mind that it is probably your largest investment. You will find that the state-licensed contractors will be much more credible and have better ratings simply because they have to in order to keep their license. At the time of renewal for the state license, the contractor is re-evaluated to make certain that they are still qualified to be licensed, including checks on criminal record, and if they’re current on state and federal taxes and financials. This is all added peace of mind for you.
About the Author
Terry Brooks is a sales consultant with Exovations of Atlanta, a home exterior remodeling company focused on conducting business the way consumers want and expect. Exovations provides vinyl replacement windows, siding installation and more.
Check out Atlanta Home Improvement on Facebook.