After the Fire: A Recovery Guide Part Seven

Hiring a Contractor


One of the most important steps when navigating the rebuild process will be hiring the contractor you will be working with. They will be with you every step of the way and will be responsible for rebuilding your home, which can be a very important part of the healing process. Your home is where you spend much of your time, where you raise your children or house your pets or where you have chosen to retire. You will want to find someone who is qualified and has the integrity to help you rebuild the place you call home.


  • Probably the best tip we can share regarding hiring a contractor is how to check a contractor’s license or home improvement salesperson’s registration to see if the candidate you are thinking of hiring has had any troubles in the past that might hint at problems in the future.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board is thenumber one place you want to start. Visiting, lets you check a contractor’s license online. From there, you can search by license number, business name, personal name, etc.

Checking a license up front can save many troubles as you go about rebuilding your property. A client learned this the hard way after hiring a paving contractor to redo their driveway years ago. It was only after the contractor reneged on his deal and left them with work undone that they discovered that they were not his first victim. If they had known that they were able to check on the contractor’s license on the state website, it would have saved them heaps of trouble.

  • The State License Board also publishes a Checklist for Homeowners, available here, that you can download and follow. It asks useful things like: Did you get at least 3 local references form the contractors you are considering? Did you call them? Will the contractor get a permit before the work starts? Did you read and understand your contract?

Once You Have Found a Contractor

Once you have found someone you would like to hire, it is time to begin reviewing the contract. This contract, is an important part of the rebuilding process. A contract is a legal document, so it is important that you make sure you read it before signing and ask questions before committing.

Some important items that belong in a contract for rebuilding are:

      • When the work will start and end;
      • A detailed description of work to be done;
      • Material to be used and equipment to be installed;
      • any required down payment; and
      • a schedule of payments.

Also, your contractor should give you a “Notice to Owner” describing liens and ways to prevent them. As the License Board notes, “Even if you pay your contractor, a lien can be placed on your home by unpaid laborers, subcontractors, or material suppliers. A lien can result in you paying twice or, in some cases, losing your home in a foreclosure. Check the “Notice to Owner” for ways to protect yourself.”

One last thought. In the wake of a wildfire on the scale that California has experienced in the recent months, quality local contractors will be in short supply. Prices may reflect that fact and rebuilding quickly may not be an option given the facts imposed by supply and demand.

Even so, take care in choosing your contractor. Do not choose someone just because they are willing to do the work more cheaply or if they promise you to have it completed more quickly. The rebuilding work may take longer than you had hoped, but you will be living with the final product every day for as long as you remain in your home.

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