There has been a growing influx of startup companies sprouting up to capitalize on Southern California’s growing seismic retrofit industry. This has led to concern that some of these new companies may not have the professional expertise required of such a specialized industry.
It can be confusing when you’ve got several companies knocking at your door to do business. How can you tell who’s legitimate and who’s not?
Here are five easy steps to ensure that not only are you selecting a reputable firm to do the work, but that the process followed is one that will bring you the optimum results for the safety of your tenants and protection of your building.
First and foremost, be sure that the engineer, architect or contractor you plan to hire is licensed.
The State Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists maintains a database of the names of individuals with professional licenses with the state. Visit www.bpelsg.ca.gov for more information. If the name you’re searching for isn’t there, you can call 1-866-780-5370 to make sure the omission is not due to a clerical error.
The California Architects Board lists licensed architects at www.cab.ca.gov.
The California Contractors State License Board keeps a database of all licensed and insured contractors at www.cslb.ca.gov.
Worker’s compensation and professional and general liability insurance are needed to protect yourself and your property in the event that something goes wrong. Never assume a contractor has liability coverage and insist that you obtain a certificate of insurance to verify their coverage.
Finally, as a part of your written contract, make sure you are named as additional insured and have your insurance agent and/or legal representative review the additional insured endorsement before signing the contract.
Make sure your contractor has done at least five projects in the past year and verify the work by contacting the building owner or manager and doing an inspection of the site. Check out the finished work to see if it blends well with the original paint, stucco and other building elements. Inspect the placement of structural elements and the impact of the retrofit on the use of the building. Did they lose a parking space in the process?
When checking a contractor’s references, be sure to follow up on how the firm deals with tenants during the construction process. Some questions to ask include:
Whether tenants needed to be relocated, and why
- If tenants were able to use their usual parking spaces during non-business hours
If the grounds were kept clean and hazards such as tools and construction material contained
The City of Los Angeles recommends that owners of soft-story apartment buildings start their retrofit process by hiring a licensed engineer or architect to evaluate the building and develop plans for its seismic strengthening in compliance with the city ordinance.
The engineering study enables a building owner to get a thorough, written description of the work needed. Having that document enables a building owner to solicit various construction bids for the project – ensuring that they get the best price for the work to be done.
Having an engineering study up front also makes it clear exactly what work is needed to minimize change orders or hidden costs later on.
These steps may add a little bit of time to the process, but they will pay off by helping to protect you, your property and your tenants should any type of problem arise.