City of Burlington, Vermont City of Burlington, Vermont

Water Quality, Main Breaks & Billing: 863-4501/EMAIL

Snow Ban Line: 658-SNOW

DPW Customer Service: 863-9094/EMAIL

 

Hiring a Contractor

INFORMATION ON HIRING GENERAL CONTRACTORS

The State of Vermont does not license general contractors or home improvement contractors. To ensure the protection and safety of yourself and your property, it is important to research what is provided to include seek second opinions when searching for a contractor.

Through the construction permitting processes & procedures; Burlington’s Inspection Services Team levels the playing field by being consistent delivering the highest-quality of service and education to everyone from homeowners to professionals.  While searching for your contractor, contact your local code expert or municipal authority to learn more about the related laws, processes and procedures in your area.  When working outside the City of Burlington it will serve you best to contact the Department of Public Safety/Division of Fire Safety.  http://firesafety.vermont.gov/

Below and following the “Introduction to Building Permits” serving the City of Burlington, you will find a list of questions to ask when researching contractors.

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Planning and Zoning Office: 149 Church Street, Lower level City Hall

Building Permit Office: 645 Pine Street, Department of Public Works.

Planning your project

Checklist

  • Plan your project carefully. If you know what you want done and can clearly explain it, you are less likely to misunderstand instructions or encounter cost overruns.

  • Interview several qualified contractors and solicit written bids.

  • Follow up on the contractors you are considering by researching them online: 

  • Ask for references and then check them out. If possible, visit a site with work in progress, view the work, and interview the homeowner.

  • Ask for references of suppliers that the contractor works with and check out his or her payment record.

  • Request a copy of the contractor’s insurance policy to verify what is covered.

  • Consult with your own homeowner’s insurance policy to verify what is covered.

  • Evaluate all the aspects of the bids, including the scope of work, warranties, references, time frames and price.

  • Request that the contractor post a performance bond* for the entire cost of the project if it is more than $6,000. (this amount is within your control and may be set at any amount)

  • Try to anticipate problems and inconveniences, such as cost overruns or cleanup, and come to an agreement with your contractor on how they will be handled before the work begins.

*Performance Bond: A performance bond is a financial tool used to guarantee that in the event of a developer or contractor's default, funds are available to finish the construction. 

State of Vermont Home Improvement Fraud Registry

A Registry is available of the names of all persons who have been criminally convicted for committing “home improvement fraud” since July 1, 2003, or “fraudulent acts relating to home improvement” since July 1, 2008. The registry additionally includes individuals who have resolved civil claims brought against them by the State of Vermont in Superior Court.

Once you have chosen a contractor or remodeler; Get it in Writing:

  • Obtain a written contract that includes price, payment terms, sales tax, permit fees (if applicable), the specific work to be performed, materials to be used, warranties and start and end date. It is also a good idea to include change-order processes, final review and sign-off procedures and cleanup.

  • Ask for a disclosure statement prior to work starting.

  • Make frequent inspections and consult your local building department about required permits. Make sure that all permits are in place and that inspections are in order.

  • When advancing money for materials, it may be possible to make checks payable to both the contractor and the supply house or to pay the supply house directly.

  • Put all change orders in writing and ask questions as work progresses.

  • Avoid verbal contracts, and be very cautious about paying for work that has not been completed or approved.

  • Request signed lien releases from all major subcontractors and suppliers on your job before making final payments.

  • Secure a copy of their sub-trades, (electrical, plumbing, gas, lead, etc.) valid State of Vermont Licenses and Certifications.

  • Secure your copy of the permits required in the City of Burlington.

Be vigilant of contractors who: 

  • Provide credentials or references that cannot be verified.

  • Offer a special price only if you sign today or use other high-pressure sales techniques.

  • Accept only cash, require large deposits or the entire cost up front or ask you to make the payment in their name.

  • Do not provide a written contract or complete bid.

  • Do not secure a building permit. In most instances, all projects are required to take out the permits. Permits are your protection and help ensure that work will meet local building codes.

  • Offer exceptionally long warranties.

  • Want to do most or all the work on weekends and after-hours.

  • Give you an offer that sounds “too good to be true.” 

Avoid lien problems

(First, consult your legal advisor on all legal issues)

  • Ask for the legally required disclosure statement that advised consumers about lien releases.

  • If any supplier of materials, worker or subcontractor is not paid, a lien may be filed against your property to force you to pay. You could pay twice for the same work. Worse, an unpaid lien could lead to foreclosure on your home. (For remodeling projects, liens can only be filed for the amount left unpaid to the general contractor.)

  • If you receive a “notice of intent” to file a lien on your property, ask your general contractor to provide you with lien release documents from the supplier or subcontractor who has sent this notice.

  • The contractor is required to provide you with more information about lien release documents if you request it.

  • If you have requested lien release documents, avoid making final payment until you have received a lien release from suppliers and subcontractors.  

Get the answers:

  • If the contractor has worked in the State of Vermont and for how long.

  • If a contractor has workers’ compensation insurance for his or her employees.

  • If there is any pending or past action against a contractor’s bond.

  • Other business names a contractor may have operated under in the past.

  • If a contractor has ever been cited for infractions. 

Resources

Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Vermont

Office of the Attorney General

State of Vermont Home Improvement FAQ’s 

Vermont’s Home Improvement Fraud

Consumer Assistance Program (CAP)

Consumer Protection

Department of Public Safety/Division of Fire Safety

When faced with any legal issues, please consult your legal advisor