I suggest that you find your painting contractor on your own when living in the Chicago area. Do your own research instead of hoping that contractor referral service will help you. I’ll elaborate why I feel this way soon.
I would advise that you call a friend or relative who has recently had the interior or the exterior of their home painted by a professional painter. You can ask them how they felt about their experience. If they liked their painting contractor, they will let you know. They’ll also let you know if they didn’t. You should ask them how they felt about the painting company’s quality, price and service. Was the contractor attentive to their needs or not? Just keep in mind that you’re needs and wants will not be identical to your friend’s or relative’s. For example; was the painting contractor fully insured? Maybe your friend or relative didn’t care if they were or not. When I say fully insured, I don’t just mean a “liability insurance policy” that anyone can get for sometimes just a few hundred bucks a year. But, do they carry “workers compensation insurance” as well? Well, if they have even one employee, they are required to by law.
Another way to find a painter is to do an online search, open up your local yellow page directory or respond to a flyer that was hung on your door. Call the painters for a free estimate. I usually suggest getting three estimates. If you get too many more than that, then you’ll just drive yourself crazy.
If you decide to try to find a Chicago area painting contractor by using a painting contractor referral service, just remember one thing. Most of the “qualified, fully insured” painting contractors and many customers that I know, who have enrolled in these referral services have been disappointed and disillusioned with the results and have stopped using the contractor referral service altogether. So, what do you end up getting with a lead referral service? You may just get some of the “least qualified” contractors! Yes, you heard that right. And you thought that they were going to be the best, being screened for you and all! Caveat Emptor! Let the buyer beware!
Let me explain something. These contractor referral services claim to “screen” painting contractors. Yet, they seem to be “negligent at best”,when it comes to screening for workers compensation insurance”, one of the most fundamental and basic areas that is of extreme importance to any professional, legitimate painting company and more importantly to you, the customer that is hoping that the contractor referral service is “looking out for you”. Read on, I’m much more cynical than that. I don’t think it is “negligence” on the part of the contractor referral services. I think it’s more like “blatant disregard” for you, the customer. I truly believe, that the contractor referral services are banking on the fact that the average homeowner does not know the law; and then they use this to pull the wool over your eyes while basically implying to you the following. “Don’t worry Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner. We are looking out for you. We “pre-screened” these contractors for you!” I know. That does sound cynical of me doesn’t it? But, why do the contractor referral services fail to screen for such a “basic” thing as workers compensation insurance?
In Illinois, it is law, that when a painting contractor hires employees and has them working on your home, that those employees be covered by workers compensation insurance, just in case a painter gets hurt or dies while painting the interior or exterior of your home. Guess what. Painters do get hurt on jobs and more often than you might think. And serious injury for painters is actually quite common. And did you know that your homeowner’s insurance may NOT cover you if a painter gets hurt while painting your house.
In fairness to some of these contractors, if a painter is working for himself and by himself, he is not required to carry workers compensation insurance on himself, but once he has a worker on the job, it’s a new ball game. Even if the owner of the painting company excludes himself from his policy, he must still provide the workers compensation for his employee. Now, he’ll probably tell you that he’s paying him “as a subcontractor”. Well when somebody gets hurt on the job, somebody is going to still come looking for money from the workers compensation insurer. When they find out that there is no workers compensation insurance, then somebody is still going to pay. The painter that is injured will look to collect from whoever has the most money. I would bet that in most cases that means you, the homeowner.
If you don’t think that anyone could possibly get hurt on just this one little job for you, then I suggest you do a little research online. Just do a Google search for “house painting fatalities” or “house painting injuries”. It might shock you. People get hurt doing construction and home improvements all the time. You can even narrow down your search to the Chicago area. I don’t want to scare you, but you must open your eyes and see the world in which you live. Many times an unethical painter or other tradesman will even “fake” an injury, looking to milk a situation for a long time. Please don’t be naive enough to think that it won’t happen to you because you are nice person. Nice people are the “easiest” for people with no scruples to take advantage of. It happens all the time.
Maybe one contractor referral exists that screens for it, but I have personally NEVER seen a contractor referral service in the Chicago area screen painters for workers compensation insurance. I’ve only seen them screen for liability insurance, lawsuits or judgments and a few other things. They seem to be more concerned with the following: Joe Dokes in Winnetka says…..”Hank and his brother and law were such nice guys, not only did they do a nice job painting my living room, but they also walked my dog?”
I have come to the conclusion and it is just my opinion, that there is a reason why the contractor referral services do NOT screen painters for workers compensation insurance. They leave this “extremely” important screening for workers compensation insurance out of their “screening process” because if they actually did screen for this insurance, then they would lose about 90% of their revenue generating customers, which are the painting contractors that pay for your name. You are a hot lead. And the contractor referral service will sell your name, address and phone number to anywhere from 2 to 4, to maybe even more painters. They’ll collect money from these contractors whether you buy a paint job or not.
The reason the contractor referral service will NOT screen for workers compensation insurance is because over 90% of the painters that you attempt to hire from the referral service will NOT have this workers compensation insurance because it is too expensive, or they do not know that they are “required” to have their employees covered by it. I really don’t blame the painters. These are men and women who are just out there in the world trying to make a buck to support their families. They may in fact be innocent. There are a lot of laws out there. They just need to be educated and if the contractor referral service “really” had the contractor’s interest at heart, as well as you the homeowner, then they would tell the contractor that he should buy workers compensation insurance to make sure he passes the “screening” process and protects himself, his workers and his customers.
Therefore, what the lead referral services “actually” do is guarantee that you do NOT get the most qualified contractors bidding on your painting project. Instead you may even get the “least” qualified. This is not always the case. There are painting contractors in the Chicago area who are members of paint contractor referral services who do follow the law and carry the proper insurance. But, it’s up to YOU to screen them, even if you hire them from a lead referral service who “claims” to have already qualified them. The lead referral service just won’t do it because this would put them out of business because they wouldn’t be able to sell leads to enough contractors. Remember, the painters that are contacting you when you have a contractor referral service give your name out, are “paying for your name and job information”.
Lead referral services typically charge the painting contractor anywhere from $25 to $200 for “leads” (your name and address and what work you need done). You are a “lead”. Some charge much more than that and even take a percentage of the job from the contractor. While in theory, I feel that a contractor referral service is a good idea, in practice, I just haven’t seen it work because the contractor referral services are too greedy and want to charge 3 or 4 contractors for your name whether they are fully insured or not and whether you hire one of those contractors or not.
I was a member of several contractor referral services and had good ratings on most of them, however, after going on hundreds of appointments and spending thousands of dollars, I realized that I was bidding against contractors who were unqualified, yet winning the bids because their prices were dirt cheap. But, the customer thought they were “screened”. If you are looking for “cheap” and don’t really care if your painters are complying with Illinois law, then you might find this with the contractor referral services. So it might not be a bad idea to use them if you need to keep your price way low, since so many contractors will be contacting you that are out to cut each others throat. A lot of them can do beautiful work too. I’m not questioning the quality of the work of any of these contractors.
I suggest that you find your painting contractor, on your own; online, from a friend or relative, yellow pages, mass mailings, whatever. There are a lot of good contractors out there. This way, when you are getting your quotes, you can screen them yourself. You know the old saying, “if you want something done right….then do it yourself”. The thing for me that determines professionalism in this industry is whether the painting contractor is “fully insured”. Yep! I know….they ALL say they are! It’s almost laughable.
The best way to actually find out if a painter is legitimate in my opinion is to ask him for a certificate of “workers compensation insurance” as well as a certificate of “liability insurance”. If he’s fully insured then he probably cares about the quality of his work, customer service and all of the other things that you would expect from a quality chicago area paint contractor. Ask him to have his agent send you a copy. Do not accept a copy of a policy from the contractor. Another quick and easy way to find out if a painting company is following Illinois law with respect to workers compensation is to call the Illinois Industrial Commission and simply give them the name of the contractor, his address and phone number. They will tell you right away whether that contractor who told you that he was fully insured, really is. The phone number for the Illinois Industrial Commission is 312-814-6611.