Doing it right: Tips for Hiring HOA Contractors

By Laura Otto
Image Description

Whether it’s landscaping, a plumbing fix, or a major clubhouse renovation, selecting the right contractor for your HOA or condo requires ethical and diligent work from board members. It’s important for board members to specify exactly what services the association needs to avoid a conflict of interest. For example, if a board member owns a lawn care company and the association is seeking bids for lawn care services, the board member could face a conflict of interest.

Steve Cousino, CMCA, AMS, senior association manager with Caribou Property Management in Madison, Wis., shares his top three tips for hiring contractors.

First, do your research. Check Google reviews, Yelp, and other online resources regarding the contractor’s services.  “There are tips online on how to read reviews and interpret fake ones from real ones, and how to know if a review is trustworthy or not. Reviews need to be vetted as much as the contractor.”

Next, provide an accurate scope of work, and ask questions about the bid to ensure you understand it. Never make assumptions about what is or is not included.

Finally, get a W-9 form, proof of insurance, and verify any required licenses needed by the contractor before work commences. “Requesting this information is a reasonable ask that any contractor should have no problem providing,” says Cousino.

Most people think three is the number when it comes to bids but according to Cousino, the answer is as many bids as it takes within reason. “You want enough bids to understand if the pricing is out of whack or in line with other vendors, and to compare terms and conditions and any ‘extras’ that a vendor may include in addition to the requested scope of service,” he says.

Cousino’s words of advice: “If too many options are provided, the board can find it hard to decide. The manager’s role is to whittle bids down to the best options that meet their needs and present those.”

When writing the contract, try to align the goals of the association and the partner company. “The contract should clearly identify the association as the client (with c/o the management company, if relevant) and identify both the billing address and the job site address, if different,” says Cousino. “If a management company is involved, they should not be listed as the responsible party in place of the association.”

The full scope of work should be detailed on the contract. When requesting changes, hand write them and initial the changes.

Contracts should also include the vendor’s terms and conditions, payment terms, the rights of the association for unsatisfactory work, how the vendor handles corrections, and contract cancellation conditions. These can be negotiated, explains Cousino. “Many terms and conditions are written to benefit the vendor, so don’t be shy about requesting changes to make it fairer, if necessary,” he says.

Final pro tip: Don’t assume a partner company follows all state and local regulations or has all necessary licenses, certifications, or permits. Your association should require a copy of all licenses, certificates, and permits before the contract is signed.

Why is it important to hire a licensed contractor? When hiring accredited tradespeople, the association has assurances that the individual doing the work has knowledge of proper work practices and local building codes, explains Cousino. “An unlicensed contractor is also an uninsured contractor. If that contractor suffers injury while on the property, the association is liable.”

Where do boards find qualified prospective candidates who can bid for the services they need? Search CAI’s National Service Directory.

Check out Bids & Contracts from the CAI Press bookstore for more information. explores questions and comments from community association members living in condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives. We then assemble trusted experts to provide practical solutions to your most commonly asked, timely questions. We never use real names, but we always tackle real issues. Have a question or comment about your community association? Submit here for consideration:

Get More Expert Advice

Join CAI’s online community for access to the industry’s most in-demand community association resources.

Thousands of your peers are sharing advice.

Laura Otto

Laura Otto is the Senior Editor of Digital Content at CAI. A seasoned journalist, Laura previously worked for a creative, advocacy agency in Washington, D.C., where she wrote and edited content for a variety of public health clients. Prior to that, Laura served as a senior writer and editor for the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Laura is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia.