Everyone has heard the contractor horror stories. Most of them are true. Like anything else today there are good, knowledgeable, professionals, with
excellent business ethics; And there are others who should never be allowed a contractor’s license–if they do have one. Homeowners spend months planning
a home improvement or remodeling project. They spend hundreds of hours in thought and a large amount of money and expect the desired changes to be what
they plan and to go off without a hitch. And they deserve that. But they don’t always get it. So how to protect yourself? Here are some pointers.
1. Never hire someone who just shows up one day and knocks on your door. Good contractors don’t go door-to-door, they advertise, they are found on the Internet or in the phone book. Those who knock on the door and try to sell you a roofing or paving job, for instance, are thieves or scammers who will take your money and run. And you’ll be left with a driveway that is unusable or a roof that leaks like a sieve.
2. If a contractor asks for a big payment up front beware. A good reputable contractor will not ask for more than 10-20% of the total cost of the job before the
job is done. Large amounts of custom materials to start the job is the only time a larger upfront payment may be required and everything should be spelled out
in the contract. If there’s anything you don’t understand in the contract ask; preferably a lawyer who is knowledgeable in these matters.
3. Always check out licenses, insurance, and references. Ask for proof. Call and verify that everything is current and valid.
4. Check court records for litigation here The basic information in online, free and you really only need the owners full name and county. If the contractor is being sued by a past homeowner, read the lawsuit carefully, and don’t be afraid to contact the homeowner and ask for details.
5. Check the gold old BBB(Better Business Bureau) and check for his/her rating and check for any complaints. Search for both the contractors name and the company name.
6. Don’t forget to read online reviews. Good reviews are fine but they can get friends or relatives to write good reviews. Look for negative reviews and check how they handle them. Does the contractor seek to immediately make good on any problems? Does it seem like an honest mistake or something shady? Contact the person who wrote it and find out if amends were made. Also, use common sense when it comes to reviews. Does it sound petty or frivolous? Or does it seem reasonable?
7. Do not ever work with a contractor who suggest forgoing permits. Permits cost him money and time but permits mean the work will be inspected for code violations. They protect the homeowner. And if you are caught having work done without a permit you could end up with a costly fine. Also, if you have building code violations it could hinder attempts to sell your home someday. And never let him talk you into getting the permits yourself–that is his job.
8. Don’t hesitate to talk to current customers and ask questions.
9. Beware of high-pressure sales tactics. A good deal today may turn out to be a nightmare tomorrow. Don’t let yourself get forced into anything.
10. Make sure a contract is drawn up that includes things like the exact materials including item number and brand name, the job timeline, and the progress payment schedule. Get lien releases from subcontractors–the plumber, electrician, countertop fabricators, etc. as they finish the work. If the contractor doesn’t pay his subcontractors they could come back on you and slap a lien on your home.
And finally, never, never, ever hand over the entire payment due for the job to the contractor until all inspections are complete, the lien releases are in hand, and you are completely satisfied with the work. Withhold at least 10 percent. Once the entire payment is in his hand you may never see or hear from him again.
Be smart and be careful. And happy remodeling!