Choosing the Right Contractor

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Choosing the Right Contractor

We, as Condominium Managers, are often approached by seasoned sales professionals who offer a large range of new products and services to buildings.  Whether it is carpet cleaning, odour control, security, hvac or cleaning services – everyone wants to get your business and service your sites.  How do you determine which contractor is most suitable?  Read on to find out.

Check for required license and insurance

In Ontario, all contractors must be licensed and insured for their services rendered.  Before dealing with a contractor do ensure they are current on their Liability and WSIB insurance certificates; that they are fully licensed for services rendered i.e. electrical, plumbing, HVAC, fire systems and others; that the company is registered with and appears on the ACMO trades list.  By taking this step you are ensuring that the company you are dealing with has a clean track record, is reputable and reliable.  This way, the company will stand by their work and should an issue arise in the future, they will take ownership of the work completed and not disappear on you.

Ask the right questions

There is no such thing as a “free lunch”.  In other words, if you see a bid that is too good to be true – it often is.  Before engaging the contractor, ask the right questions to ensure there are no surprises down the road.  For example, is the contract a comprehensive contract or are service calls extra to the contract?  Are employees directly hired or are they subcontracted?  How much experience do employees bring to the table?  Are all materials and/or supplies included in the quotation?  Itemize the “extras” to the contract and put an annual/monthly price on this.   Is work supervision part of the contract?  Remember that contractors who try to get their foot in the door with a low price may have built an escalation clause into their proposal, which can negatively impact the building’s future cash flows.

Look for red flags

Be wary of contractors who are vague and have little knowledge of their scope of work.  Overused responses such as “we couldn’t identify the problem and will need to come back another day”, “we cannot be sure at this time and aren’t familiar with this system”  “we cannot read the building drawings”, or “we are not sure how to fix this” are red flags that are costing the building money.  Remember, time spent on investigation and identification of a problem is billable.  Always ensure that a contractor logbook is kept current at the site and all contractors are signing in and out.  Once an invoice is received, it is a good practice to check contractor invoices against their work orders and the contractor logbook to confirm the hours spent at the building by the trades are matching up.  Remember, the building hires a contractor for their skillset – if they don’t bring the knowledge and experience that you can rely on, then it’s time for a change.

Ask the experts

Be wary of contractors who cannot fix your equipment (whether its HVAC or Life Safety Systems) and have a track record of recommending upgrades or premature equipment replacement.  All buildings have a Reserve Fund prepared by qualified engineers and every time that money is taken out of the reserve prematurely it creates a hole in the fund.  Always consult with your building engineers about unplanned equipment replacements.  Engineers will work with the Board and Management to determine the cause of premature equipment failure, get to the bottom of the problem, make professional recommendations to resolve the issues and provide equipment replacement specifications if necessary.  To assist your engineers and minimize costs, do the preliminary research of cause and effect, speak to different trades/contractors about the issue and listen to their recommendations, try to get to the bottom of the issue first and then turn your findings over to the engineers.

Sounds simple right?  Just kidding.  We as Property Managers are always on the move, asking questions, looking for answers. When unsure get professional advice.

Oksana Dolotko, RCM, is Property Manager for Online Property Management.