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Robert Lamoureux: Don’t take shortcuts with contractor’s insurance

Your Home Improvements

Posted: January 16, 2009 9:15 p.m.
Updated: January 17, 2009 4:30 a.m.
Hello Robert,
I represent an HOA and we have received a few bids from different contractors. The prices are night and day. One contractor is more along the lines of what we want to spend but does not have HOA insurance. Our question would be, is this something we should be concerned with? Thank you.
Mary B.

Hello Mary,
Yes. This should be one of your primary concerns.
When it comes to HOA properties, never hire a contractor that is not HOA insured.
I work with HOA properties throughout Los Angeles County, so I hear about this all of the time. Recently a condominium association hired a general that hired a sub-contractor, a gutter guy, to do some soldering and gutter repair. He caught the building on fire which burned three units. This sub was not insured and disappeared. They came to find out that the general did not have HOA insurance - he's out of business now, so it fell back on the condominium association insurance which drove their premiums through the roof. These costs are then passed on to the residents of the HOA.
Usually, the management company that represents a particular property provides the bids from contractors to the HOA. In this case, the management company was sued and lost because they did not check the credentials of the general, who was not HOA insured. Even though the management company was found at fault, resolution could take years in the courts and meanwhile, the condominium association is left holding the bag.
So, this property thought they could save a little money up front, but ended up having to rebuild three units in addition to their new rates.
Your more established, professional contractors will have HOA insurance, but it is very expensive. The reason costs are so high is that HOA's are known to be litigious. This means the more residents that belong to an HOA, the more power they have to fight the insurance companies and the more money they have to back them up. The insurance companies know this and charge us an arm and a leg to be HOA insured.
Also, if damage is caused to a building through the fault of a contractor, it's not just a single family home, but multiple units and multiple amounts of property damage. It would get very expensive very quickly.
So, if you need work done to your HOA property, only consider the bids by contractors that are HOA insured. The costs might be higher because of the overhead, but go with professionals and protect yourselves and your residents. Do it once, do it right.

Dear Robert,
What is required exactly for public pools? I'm referring to the Virginia Baker Act. Thank you.
Al O.

Hi Al,
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act was signed into law on December 19, 2007 with a one year grace period before all public swimming pools, spas and hot tubs are required to have several safety features installed including an anti-entrapment drain cover. An extension is being requested due to shortages of these covers or not knowing exactly what type of cover is required. The approved cover conforms to American National Standard ASME A112.19.8 - 2007 published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
This law was put in place because of the hundreds of injuries or drownings each year. The suction created by the drain at the bottoms of pools, spas and hot tubs are enough to seriously injure small children. They might be old enough to swim to the bottom, but not strong enough to get free from the suction of the drain.
Another requirement of the law is that for each pool or spa with a single drain, a secondary device be installed to prevent suction entrapment. For example, a second drain would be installed. For this, you would first drain the pool and saw cut an area around the original main drain, T off, come in with 90's and install two drains at least three feet apart. This way, if a child is near one of the drains, the bulk of the suction will automatically shift to the other.
All pools, spas and hot tubs built after Dec. 20, will be required to have at least two safety drains per suction system, or one or more unblockable drains, or no drains at all.

Hello Robert,
I have a driveway and big chunks of concrete are popping out of it for no reason. It's like its exploding. Do you know what this is?
Allen T.

Hi Allen,
When your driveway was being finished, somebody trowelled it too long and brought too much cream up to the top. When this cream dries, it's more brittle and will chip off. You'll usually start to notice this after about five years. The more cream you have, the more of these problems you will get.
With concrete, you want to do what you need to do then leave it alone and get out of there. If you work it too much, you'll have problems down the line.

Mr. Lamoureux,
I'm a regular reader of your column and I notice you don't answer many electrical questions. The reason I'm asking is because I have a question about an outlet but don't want to waste your time if you would prefer not to answer. Basically, I want to install an outside outlet, on the other side of an outlet in my living room, and heard it had to be a GFI. Is this true? If so, how do I wire it up? Many thanks,
George M.

Hi George,
No, I don't mind electrical questions. I answer all of the questions as they come in, whatever they may be. It's true, electrical questions are the ones I'm most cautious about, because someone can get seriously hurt if they don't know what they're doing.
I always recommend that a qualified electrician be called due to the nature and potential harm of working with electricity.
To be on the safe side, flip the breaker and make sure there is no electricity going to the outlet closest to where you want to install the new exterior receptacle. You are going to want to pull power from this receptacle to the new one.
Next, you have to punch a hole through the wall where you want the receptacle located. Do a neat job here and it will save you the wall repair later.
Then put your bell box up. Since it's on an exterior wall, you'll want to use a GFI receptacle.
If the GFI is basically back to back with an inside outlet, remove the inside receptacle and wire up enough Romex to reach the new outlet. Push the Romex out through the back of the old box and into the new box and wire up the GFI. Wiring instructions will be included. To finish, code requires you to install a rain-tight outdoor box cover.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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