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Be Smart About Hiring a Building Contractor

Main Content
Release date: 
October 11, 2007
Release Number: 

BISMARCK, N.D. --One important piece of rebuilding disaster-damaged homes and communities is hiring good, reliable contractors to do the work.  The City of Northwood, the State of North Dakota and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are urging consumers to use care and common sense when hiring repair contractors.

Contractors need to be licensed with the State of North Dakota.  The Office of the Attorney General provides consumer fraud information on their web site at  Access the Office of the Secretary of State's contractor licensing information at to determine whether or not a contractor is licensed, click on "Contractors Licensed in North Dakota" and follow the instructions.

Some additional tips to keep in mind:

Choosing a Contractor:

  • If you were satisfied with past work done by local, licensed contractors, try them first.  If they cannot help you, ask for recommendations.  If you must hire a contractor you don't know, talk to several before signing anything.

  • Make sure the contractor is licensed:  If the contract work exceeds $2,000, the contractor must be licensed by the North Dakota Secretary of State.  To verify this, call the Secretary of State's Licensing Division at 1-800-352-0867 ext. 8-3665.  Also, check with the Attorney General's Licensing Section at 701-328-2329 to determine if the contractor needs a "transient merchant's license."  This requirement protects you and includes a bond that may be available for a consumer claim about the product or service.

  • Check the contractor's reputation:  Ask for references.  Contractors should be willing to provide names of previous customers.  Contact some of those customers and ask if they would hire the contractor again.

  • Ask for proof of insurance:  Be sure the contractor has disability and workers' compensation insurance.  If not, you may be liable for accidents on your property.

  • Phony Inspectors:  If you have not called for one, be very careful if someone comes to your door offering to inspect your property.  Before letting them in, make sure they have the appropriate credentials and ask for a telephone number so you can confirm the inspector is working for an authorized agency.

Scope of Work:

  • Get required permits:  The City of Northwood requires a building permit before any demolition or rebuilding takes place.  This requirement applies to structures of all kinds, including outbuildings and fences.  Demolition or rebuilding without a permit could result in damage to utilities or create a significant hazard. A building permit is NOT required for general repairs such as roof repair, window replacement or siding.  Permits are available at Northwood City Hall.

  • Know what you need:  Prepare a detailed list of work that needs to be done including, if you know, the materials required.

  • Ask for a written estimate or bid:  Find out up front if the contractor will charge a fee for an estimate.  Make sure the estimate includes everything you expect the contractor to do. (You might want to provide the contractor with your detailed work list when you ask for the estimate).  Get two or three written bids for your project.  Never accept a verbal estimate.

  • Ask for a contract:  The contract should clearly state the contractor's name, business location and t...
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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