Clockwise Property Management Blog

Tips for Hiring a Contractor to Work on Rental Properties

Tips for Hiring a Contractor to Work on Rental Properties

Hiring a contractor to maintain or make repairs on any property can be a daunting task. Finding great contractors who work well with the landlord tenant situation may seem impossible. Sending a contractor to work on a tenant occupied residence MUST be taken seriously no matter the complexity of the repair for your protection as well as the tenant's satisfaction. Many problems are avoidable if proper steps are followed PRIOR to hiring a contractor. Great contractors will appreciate your diligence in requesting documentation because they want to help you weed out the bad contractors. Your rental property is NOT "just a rental". This property is a long-term investment for you and should be treated with care.

Here is how we select contractors and what basic expectations we have for contractors who work on rental properties:

1. Referral - other people around you will love the opportunity to help you find contractors to interview

  • Ask friends and family for recommendations for a contractor they've used to complete the type of work you need done, but never hire their "buddy" and skip the other steps below  
  • Ask other contractors who have done great work for you if they can recommend another contractor who specializes in the work you need done
  • Check with a local landlord association for contractors who belong to the organization

2. Licensed, Bonded, Insured - checking to see a contractor has an established business and coverage to protect you is easy thanks to the internet. NEVER skip this step. 

  • For Washington State, you can verify a contractor's licensing and insurance by visiting
  • Hiring someone who is working "under the table" is risky. Contractors who are trying to avoid paying taxes, workers compensation or other fees are likely skipping other important details as well. Your landlord policy provider may choose to not cover an insurance claim if the person you hired to do the work did not meet minimum qualifications within your state to work on properties.

3. Documentation - contractors should be expected to provide copies of the following

  • Business License
  • Contractor License
  • Insurance Coverage, listing you as an additional insured
  • Contact information - phone AND email
  • W-9 if you need to file a 1099
  • References

4. Reasonable Response Times - when we call a contractor the first time and any time in the future, we expect a response via phone, text or email within 24 business hours, but prefer a same day response

  • Contractors are busy, so delay of speaking with the contractor also delays scheduling and making the needed repair
  • You need to trust the response time of the contractor so you know tenants can expect a prompt resolution

5. Reasonable Pricing - quality contractors need to be rewarded for the work and reliability they provide, but pricing must still be reasonable

  • Never hire solely based on the lowest quoted price
  • Never allow contractors to compete on price - let them know you are getting additional quotes, but the price they provide to you should be the amount they need to provide the level of service you expect and not undermining the first contractor who responded
  • Clarify if you will need to hire another contractor to do any finish work once their work is completed - some contractors do it all, other contractors are limited by the type of license they have

6. Pleasant and Professional Interaction - if the contractor and you don't mesh well any time, try to work it out or part ways

  • Contractors will likely have to interact with the tenant and the tenant should feel reasonably comfortable with the contractor
  • You should be working together and not making life more complicated for one another

7. Discuss Expectations - this is the time to ask questions and set up communication guidelines

  • Ask your contractor to keep conversations to a minimum with a tenant and NEVER comment on the quality of workmanship done by someone else to the tenant and instead inform you of any deficiencies discovered while working at the property
  • Contractors are expected to treat the tenant's residence as a palace, even if it doesn't look like one (remove shoes/wear shoe covers, clean up the work area) 
  • Contractors are NEVER to enter the residence or complete work outside if an unaccompanied minor is present
  • Contractors should show up when expected and leave the property as quickly and efficiently as possible
  • Ask the contractor to explain the hiring and work completion process, including scheduling with the tenant
  • Tell your tenant this is the first time you've hired this particular contractor and you value their feedback BEFORE any work is done - keep the lines of communication open with your tenant
  • When is payment expected - a contractor can put a lien on your property if you don't pay the bill, so it's best to set up expectations in advance
  • Payment in advance of work completion is NOT recommended - if it's a larger project, you could pay for work in stages of completion, but paying for labor and likely materials in advance shouldn't be necessary. Materials and supply providers where the contractor shops can put a lien on your property if the contractor doesn't pay for materials. Of course, you could always shop for the materials and pay for them directly if you prefer.
  • Establish the best way for all parties to reach one another

8. Quality of Work - check the work done prior to paying for the work completed on the first few jobs

  • Ask the contractor to send photos
  • Ask the tenant to rate their experience with the contractor
  • Visit the rental property to view the work in person if your instincts leave you unsure of quality from the photos or tenant experience

9. Detailed Invoice - every invoice must contain the following

  • Date
  • Contractor name
  • Contractor contact information
  • Date work completed
  • Address of the rental property where work was completed
  • Description of work performed
  • Warranty information, if any
  • Price
  • Sales Tax Rate
  • Sales Tax Total
  • Grand Total

As you can see, selecting contractors to work on your rental property is a detailed process. But, if you find a great contractor who likes to work for you and your tenants like the contractor, you life as a landlord will be so much easier. Quality contractors appreciate repeat business and landlords who treat them as professionals. Be kind. Never minimize what they do for you. Express your gratitude. Help your contractors be amazing by letting them know what you need. If you lay the foundation, you will see great returns for your property, your peace of mind and build a lasting relationship. Your property manager works on contractor relationships daily to keep your rental property in shape so you don't have to work so hard each time repairs or maintenance are needed.