Whether it is redesigning light fixtures in a common space or replacing a roof, repair jobs and capital improvement projects are like death and taxes, they are inevitable. Whereas a building administrator or a managing agent most often handles the hiring of contractors and oversees the execution of the job, problems and issues often arise which makes it important for board members to understand licensing, documentation and accepted protocols.
Every co-op or condo community has to hire contractors and deal with contracts at one time or another. If you have a reliable contractor with whom you’ve done business for years and years, all well and good. But if you're starting from scratch and happen to hire an unlicensed, uninsured (or improperly insured) or inexperienced contractor, then you may be courting disaster.
Know the Facts
Time and time again, we read of the tragic consequences of hiring improperly licensed or inexperienced contractors and workers. Even something seemingly harmless, like hiring a friend to paint your lobby ceilings, could result in serious problems. Fairly recently, this reporter visited a friend in a co-op in Queens. While exiting the building, he saw two gardeners working and almost tripped on their equipment. “Careful,” one of them said, “we don’t have insurance!” Needless to say, this situation may not be all that uncommon.
While most of the time it’s the managing agent or manager who deals with these transactions directly, it’s also important for board members to know the fundamentals and to have a basic knowledge of what licensing and documentation is needed for any contractor who performs work for their building.
We should begin with the documentation that a board or manager must demand from a contractor before work on a project begins. The most important documents, says attorney Marcie Waterman Murray, of the Manhattan law firm of Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, P.C., are a signed contract drafted by the building’s attorney and original evidence of insurance, (i.e., a certificate of insurance) that conforms to the requirements of the job that’s going to be done.