10 guidelines for hiring contractors

“Outsourcing work doesn’t exempt you from responsibility”, says Gary Plant, Managing Director of Altius VA. “Housing managers still ‘carry the can’ for ensuring that work is carried out properly – whether by a contractor or sub-contractor”.


This means, that you carry overall responsibility for any mistakes, problems, or developments in a project.  Contractors and sub-contractors must adhere to your high standards while excelling in the work that you need done in terms of quality, credibility and liability.

To simplify and de-risk the hiring process, here’s 10 guidelines:

  1. Ask for evidence of license, and ongoing training

Depending on the nature of the job, it might be necessary for contractors and sub contractors to be accredited by an industry body. Check that whoever is working for you is able to work safely.

Evidence of ongoing training is also something that you should request as it shows that the contractor is keeping their skills up to date, up to standard, and has the desire to continually improve the work that they do.

  1. Request references from previous clients

Seek references to verify the information that you have been provided with by the contractor or sub-contractor to see if they can deliver.

  1. Check insurance

It’s your responsibility to ensure that contractors and sub-contractors have the right level of insurance and check regularly to ensure that it has not expired. In the case of ‘labour only’ contractors, you need to make sure that your own employer’s liability insurance will cover the work they’re going to do for you.

  1. Check health and safety credentials

While you’re responsible for providing a working environment that provides low risk to the health and safety of your contractors and sub-contractors, it’s a shared responsibility. They also have a duty of care to ensure that the work sites they, and their workers/sub-contractors are sent to, do not pose any risks. They should be trained to carry out relevant health and safety assessments and follow procedures.

  1. Find out who exactly is doing the work

Will the contractor you’re hiring do the work themselves? Or will they be hiring a sub-contractor? If it’s going to be the latter, you need full visibility of your contractor’s hiring and onboarding process to make sure it reflects your standards and won’t expose you to risk.

  1. Understand what your own responsibilities are

Before work begins, and your contract is signed, you need to define exactly what your responsibilities and deliverables are to the contractor. Whether this be providing them with paperwork, your health and safety procedure, or specific tools they need for the job, you have to understand what the contractor is expecting from you to do their job. It’s important to have a robust strategy and framework in place that sets out exactly what is expected and what the timeframe is. This requires policies and rules; contracts and specifications; controls and restraints and continuous monitoring

Once defined, ensure they’re added into the contract.

  1. Get your contract signed

The contract should cover costs, brands of materials used (or items installed), approximate start and finish dates, a complete set of drawings (if applicable) with written specifications, deliverables expected from each party and responsibilities. A contract can never be too detailed.

  1. Select a point of contact

It’s much easier to maintain contact with the same person every time you communicate about a job. Having one single point of contact per project ensures that lines of communication are always kept open, and the chances of crossed wires are reduced.

  1. Agree KPIs

Monitoring the work carried out by contractors/ sub-contractors is a vital part of any project. To ensure that your high standards are achieved, and that the project is kept on the right track, agreeing and implementing KPIs to monitor outcomes is necessary.

  1. Remain compliant

Remaining compliant with regulations, and industry standards is the key to making sure that projects run without a hitch. It’s your role as client to continuously assess contractors to ensure that they meet health and safety standards, have the right insurances in place, and are financially robust, etc.  Using modern software-based compliance systems can make this process easier and highlight lapses in compliance, which are so often a problem.

Download the Altius VA Best Practice Guide to Social Housing Contractor Compliance