CONTRACTOR RIP OFF STORIES: HOW TO PREVENT YOUR OWN
Listening to the radio in my car the other day, I was astonished to hear yet another example of too many contractor rip off stories. This particular story was about a couple who hired a contractor to do work in their home. After writing a check for a large amount of money, they never saw or heard from him again.
I hear these stories much too often. So, what can you do to prevent your own addition to the growing list of contractor rip off stories?
First, after more than thirty years in this industry I need to point out that the vast majority of people working as building contractors are not only skilled tradesman, but responsible, honest and trustworthy.
Secondly, just because someone proclaims to be a “contractor” doesn’t mean they are truly a licensed, bonded and insured legitimate contractor.
Third, there are many signs illuminating those you do not want to do business with.
Here are a few things to tip you off that you should look for someone else:
✦ Cannot present a business card.
✦ Doesn’t have a state contractor’s license number.
✦ Gives you a hand-written bid on a sheet of notebook paper.
✦ Wants to know if they can use some of your tools.
✦ Wants to know if it’s OK to use your Home Depot account.
✦ Asks for a significant “down payment”.
✦ Doesn’t have a list of past customers you can call for reference.
✦ Can’t give you a workers compensation insurance policy number
✦ Beware if they want to start the next morning.
These may seem obvious or even comical signs to you, but you would be surprised to know that most people who have had very bad experiences have disregarded these signs.
A past client of mine had actually hired a carpenter he met in the checkout line of a supermarket! Needless to say, the work was atrocious and never completed.
It is important to remember that you are entering into a business agreement with these people. It is simply good business practice to check them out before arranging to give them the work—and usually a considerable amount of money for that work.
Here is how to do that:
✦ Ask for a license number and certificate of insurance. Call the state license board to see if there are any registered complaints.
✦ A legitimate contractor will give you a list of references you can call to see what past customers have to say about their performance? Make sure you make those calls.
✦ Ask for photos of their work or places you can go to see the quality of work.
✦ Do not agree to give them large amounts of money before they start their work unless you are given a paid invoice from a material supplier or you write a two party check to the contractor and supplier. Most established and successful contractors will not ask for money up front.
✦ Sign a contract or agreement with a complete scope of work, payment schedules and time of completion.
✦ Spend some time with an interview. Go with your gut feelings. Is this a person you can work with? Do they agree to keep the job site clean and orderly? Do you get the sense they are genuine and sincere about what you are asking them to do?
✦ Are you comfortable with your judgment that this a trustworthy person to deal with?
I firmly believe that if those who want to hire some work done will approach it like any other business agreement they may deal with on a day to day basis, these stories of con artist contractors who make off with thousands of dollars of honest peoples money would be diminished by ten fold. Give it some thought and give it a try. There are many good and honest contractors out there; you just have to get rid of the crooks.
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