Millions of Americans hire contractors every year. You trust a contractor in your home – but do you really know everything you need to know about your contractor?
A growing number of Americans are running background checks on contractors. Whether it’s a small renovation or a large project, your home is safer when you know your contractor.
You’re trusting a contractor – and the contractor’s employees – with access to your home or business. In many cases, the contractor has unrestricted access to your home while you may or may not be present.
Most contractors are good, hardworking people. Every year, however, thousands of Americans are victimized by malicious contractors.
A background check can verify a contractor’s personal, professional, and criminal history. You might assume a contractor is the person they claim to be – but until you run a background check, your contractor could be anyone.
Today, we’re explaining some of the most important reasons to run a background check on your contractor.
Criminal Background Checks
A criminal background check tells you if a person has been convicted of any crimes. Arrest records, criminal convictions, and major crimes or felonies can all appear on a criminal background check.
Your contractor has intimate access to your home. A background check can alert you to any violent crimes, sex crimes, or break-ins. It can also alert you to fraud or embezzlement convictions.
Employment Background Checks
Employment background checks can verify an individual’s work history, education, credit score, driving record, criminal record, medical history, and drug usage. Increasingly, professional employment background check organizations now add social media checks as well.
An employment background check can verify your contractor is qualified to work on your property. A contractor might claim to have 20+ years of experience, for example, when they really only have 2-3 years of experience.
Professional License Checks
Education verification checks or professional license checks can verify an individual has a valid license for the work they’re applying for. Some industries require a professional license check before employing anyone.
A professional license check verifies the individual has the experience, knowledge, and credentials to perform their job. A professional license check helps you avoid hiring an unlicensed or unqualified contractor.
Professional license checks are particularly important for contractors: if your contractor is unlicensed, then you become the general contractor for the job. If a worker gets hurt or breaks a sewage line, then you are responsible. Plus, unlicensed contractors typically do not have insurance. All of these factors can significantly increase your liability.
Fingerprint background checks are required in certain professions. Many people who work in schools, airports, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, or fire departments require a fingerprint check. Certain professionals – including realtors, financial professionals, pharmacists, and even casino dealers – may also require fingerprint checks prior to employment.
A fingerprint check works by running an individual’s fingerprints through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). Fingerprints are nearly impossible to fake, which means you get the most accurate image of a person’s criminal history.
Benefits of Running a Background Check on Your Contractor
Some people hire contractors for home renovation projects. Or, a business may hire a contractor for a short-term gig.
No matter why you’re hiring a contractor, you can enjoy certain benefits, including:
Ensure the Job Gets Done Right
A low-quality contractor can ruin your home. One mistake – like a broken sewer pipe – can cause enormous damages throughout your home. You might save a few hundred dollars by hiring a cheaper contractor – only to cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home.
Avoid Insurance Fraud
Some malicious contractors will approach vulnerable homeowners and take advantage of their home insurance policy. A contractor may approach a home after a hurricane, for example, and offer to manage the entire claim from beginning to end. The contractor performs a low-quality job on the property, then sends a costly bill to your insurer. This is insurance fraud, and it could cause your entire claim to be denied.
Maintain a Safe Work Environment
If someone is injured in your home, then you may be liable – especially if the contractor you hired was unlicensed and uninsured. Similarly, workplaces that hire contractors without a background check could expose employees to theft, property damage, workplace violence, and more.
Protect Brand Reputation
If your company hires a contractor, then that contractor could become the face of your company. If that person does something negative – like commits a crime – then it reflects poorly on your company. Running background checks on contractors is particularly important for positions where the contractor is interacting with your customers daily.
Reduce Legal Liability
Customers who had a poor experience with your contractor may file a lawsuit. Or, if a contractor damages your home or gets hurt in your home, then you may be on the hook for damages.
How to Run a Background Check on a Contractor
To run a background check on a contractor, you will need the contractor’s permission. Since you are hiring the contractor, you will also need to work with an FCRA-compliant background check service.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act verifies certain background check services for their accuracy and completeness. If you’re making important decisions about someone’s future – say, by hiring them or approving them as a tenant – then you need to work with an FCRA compliant background check service.
Background screenings vary widely among employers. Some employers perform a cursory background check on new contractors. Others use detailed screening procedures.
Contractor Crime is More Common Than You Think
Most contractors are law-abiding people. However, as with any industry, there are some people who take advantage of your trust.
You don’t have to look far to find stories of contractors taking advantage of homeowners.
In the last week, for example, the owner of a local contracting company in Pennsylvania was charged with felony stealing after a man reported paying for construction services he never received.
Another contractor, meanwhile, was charged with fraud after taking $15,000 for a project and never completing the work.
This Sioux City contractor was charged with a felony after taking more than $11,000 from a client and failing to perform any work.
These charges are all from the last week. All of these issues may have been avoided with a proper background check.
You trust contractors with your property. Unfortunately, some contractors violate that trust.
Consider running a background check on your contractor to verify work history, work experience, and criminal record.