Whether you just bought your rental or have owned it for years, the time will come when you need help keeping it in tip-top shape, you will need a handyman. 

Many landlords like to DIY repairs and make ready’s. That is great, but if you ever plan to take a vacation, get sick, or maintain a full schedule, you will need to be prepared to hire help. 

Hi, I’m Becca, I make managing rental properties simple and landlord life fun.

Whenever you hear the “nightmare stories” from landlords, they typically center around two major issues, bad tenants or bad contractors. Owning the rentals I do, and managing for other landlords, I have heard a LOT of stories, and had some of those experiences.

Here is the thing when it comes to those nightmare stories… When you listen carefully, you realize most of them could have been avoided if they had followed the simple steps below in “how to hire a great handyman or contractor.” Almost all the bad stuff could have been avoided, or when the inevitable accident happened, it should have been a bump in the road and not a train wreck. This is fantastic news for you mamas! I will take all that bad stuff and teach you how to do different, so you don’t end up with a story of your own to tell.

Here are the 4 Rules to guide you into hiring a great handyman or contractor.

Rule #1 – Anyone who does ANY paid work must be licensed and insured.

I’m a bargain hunting mama who loves to shop at Aldi and TJ Maxx. However, contractors and handymen are NOT the areas you want to bargain shop. 

Licensing – Different states, counties, and even cities vary on what type of work requires a license to perform the service legally. Check with your local licensing agency to get the facts for your area. If a vendor does not have the necessary license, they will not be able to pull the permits you need. Even if you choose not to worry about permits (eek!), If a license is required to do a job, and the vendor does not have it, the vendor can not get insurance. Wow, that is a big issue in my book!

Insurance – only using vendors who have liability insurance or are Workmans Comp exempt is CRAZY important! Accidents happen, especially when someone is using power tools, getting off and on a ladder, or even hanging a fan. 

I manage a property where I hired a handyman to re-tile a bathroom floor. Should be no big deal… Except the handyman did not check the shut-off valve behind the toilet before opening the line to remove the toilet, and the bathroom was on the second floor, above the kitchen, which had wood floors. Your eyes are probably getting huge as you read this, and you can only imagine all the damage. We needed all new floors downstairs, kitchen cabinets, drywall, ceiling repairs, and rent credits to the tenant. It was a mess! 

But it was not a mess for me, not really. The vendor was insured. His insurance covered the repairs, and I now have a fully remodeled townhome and a tile bathroom upstairs! This could have been a nightmare. But since I did not try and save $100 by hiring an uninsured handyman, it was simply a bump in the road.

When accidents happen, and they are bound to happen. If you have hired an uninsured vendor, you could be liable for tens of thousands in damages or even much much worse.

Need another visual? Watch Shameless Season 8, episode 10 and see what happens to Fiona when she hires an unlicensed/uninsured roofer. That will cure you of the urge to make the same mistake!

RULE #2 – All quotes must be in writing, complete with all imaginable details, and a timeline.

-a professionally printed estimate is best, but some markets are more casual, and its nearly impossible to get this. In those areas (Daytona Beach is like that for me), I accept an email, but I print out the email and have us both sign it. My goal in this requirement is so the vendor and I are on the same page with zero confusion. I have even taken screenshots of texts, printed them, and had everyone sign. It is not ideal, but I also realize that not all markets operate in the same manner.

-all imaginable details – you need to know what a quote includes to know if it is a good deal. I often get a quote that looks like this, “$1800 to paint the interior of the home on 123 Elm st”. $1800 bucks sounds like a good price, but what does it include? Is it just one coat of paint or as many coats as it takes until fully covered? Who is going to provide the paint and supplies? What about doors, trim, and ceilings? There are a lot of areas where expectations can fall short. If you ask these questions in advance, the vendor will know you are a professional, and you will both be much happier for it!

-timeline – when do you need the work completed? How would you feel if you put down a deposit, but a vendor does not start the job for a month. Put timelines on the contract!

Rule #3 – never pay more than 50% of the estimate as a deposit.

It’s OK for a vendor to ask for a deposit, and they may use that deposit to purchase materials. But I will not pay more than 50% deposit, and the rest will get paid after the job is 100% complete. On huge jobs, I am willing to do a “draw” as certain milestones are met, but that is only on jobs over $10,000, and it’s all laid out in advance on the contract.

Rule #4 – Ask for and check references

This should go without saying, but in our busy lives, it’s easy to skip this step. If a vendor cant give you three names of people who have hired them in the last six months who can say good things about them, run. Simple as that.

Don’t try and save a dollar and risk all your hard work and families financial security. 

If you follow these 4 rules on how to hire an amazing handyman or contractor, you have just eliminated 50% of all issues landlords have. That is a big deal! Your landlord life is more simple, and time with your family less stressful. Boom