Developers and commercial property managers and owners faced with improvement and expansion projects rely upon general contractors to take on the project. But how do you separate the heroes from the zeroes in the construction arena? Ask Kia Ricci.
Ricci is a licensed general contractor, consultant and author of Avoiding The Con In Construction. She’s also an engaging speaker with a mastery of the material and many years of hard-won experience. At Ricci’s address to NAR Expo 2014, she walked attendees through the ins and outs of identifying bad actors in construction contracting and subcontracting, from spotting problems in insurance, exploring state-registered complaints about work, to a catalog of scams and ripoffs in the construction trade.
Florida-based Ricci started her career as a Disney World employee in its Central Shops, Disney’s in-house fabrication division responsible for modeling, structuring and building props and structures for the Florida theme park as well as California’s. She spoke of falling in love with construction when working on the Disney Swan and Dolphin resorts, with their 60-foot art adornments. Her making the leap from fantasy-driven projects to more ground-level undertakings was informed by years of working alongside craftspeople in all construction and structural disciplines.
Dotting I’s, Crossing T’s
Of construction contracting, Ricci said “Before any job begins, 50% of it has been done – in contracting, the business of construction. If you don’t get this right, you’e going to probably have problems as construction gets underway.” She listed the various aspects of contracting: project feasibility, scope of work, contractor qualifications, proposals, contracts, estimates, schedules, permits, inspections, contract obtaining and liens.
The talk focused mainly on the two critical areas of licensing and insurance, with Ricci exploring signs of insurance fraud and how to obtain lists of complaints against licensed contractors.
“[License complaints listings] are a gold mine,” said Ricci, while showing a screenshot of Florida’s website dedicated to publishing the complaints against contractors. “If you click in and find out that they have problems with their government licensing agency, you want to know.” She was also careful to point out that not every complaint represents legal action taken – meaning contractor research on state complaint lists produces a different picture than a search in court records for the same contractor’s appearances on paperwork such as lawsuits.