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Cheaper is tempting, but usually not better

In my 31 years in the roofing industry in San Diego, I have seen this scenario play out over and over again: The economy takes a downturn, different business segments dry up, contractors start working in markets outside their area of expertise, other contractors drift in from Los Angeles and Orange counties, and the local market gets down-priced by desperate, unqualified contractors looking to survive. New construction contractors start taking projects on existing, occupied buildings and have no idea what the expectations of the owner, manager or tenants are historically. Residential contractors jump into the commercial market, and contractors with B class licenses start taking jobs in the artisan sector. Well, better make sure your legal retainer is paid up, because this can be the recipe for poor workmanship, noncompliance to contract terms and specifications, and overall dissatisfaction with the final product, if not outright fraud.

Sometimes, even despite the contractor's best intentions, a project goes utterly and horribly wrong.

You can end up with a contractor unfamiliar with certain job conditions, such as: Not being able to visibly identify the telltale signs of asbestos containing materials and getting it checked before proceeding. Or not recognizing that a change in specification needs an additional component to prevent mold growth.

Many of these contractors do not realize that their liability insurance policy (if they have one) does not cover them for the work they do -- this is especially noteworthy in condominium work, even extending to commercial planned unit developments (PUDs).

This is the time to bear down and do your due diligence, with even more care and detail than ever before. Check the contractors license online (cslb.ca.gov) and see when it was issued and in what categories they are allowed to work.

Ask for a copy of their entire liability insurance policy, including the exclusions page, and have your attorney or insurance broker check it out. You might also find the insurance company is not properly rated for your risk management requirements.

Take the time to visit the contractor's facility. You may be surprised to find there is none in San Diego, even though they show a San Diego address on their letterhead, and that all workers have to travel from Los Angeles. How well will that serve you if there is a problem in the future?

As we all know, it is much cheaper to do anything right the first time, While it may be tempting in tough financial times to take the cheaper, easier way, the cost of re-doing it, possibly after a protracted legal proceeding and cost to re-do, can take all the fun out of cheap.

Submitted by David Susi, president RSI Roofing

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