Everyone has heard the horror stories — shyster contractors who runoff with old ladies’ social security checks, leaving them with a leaking roof and an empty bank account. Don’t let contractor fraud happen to you or anyone you know. Here are a few must-dos before you let a contractor lay a single finger on your house.
1. Check with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org to see if he/she has had any complaints filed against them. If you hire someone and wait until after they have screed you to call the BBB, it’s too late to do you any good. In the case of a UK contractor you can check with Trading Standards or speak with the Citizens Advice Bureaux.
2. Find out how long they have been in business. Bad contractors tend to open and close businesses often in order to shield themselves from lawsuits filed by angry customers. A reputable contractor will have been in business — the same company name, etc.— for years.
3. Ask to see at least three references from former clients, and call each one to ask about the quality of the work and any good and bad experience they’ve had with the contractor. You may even want to drive by or stop in to examine their work.
4. Ask for referrals from friends and co-workers. If someone has a sterling recommendation for a contractor they have used after the project is finished, they can be a good starting point.
5. Also get estimates for work from at least three contractors. Never assume the cheapest price is the best deal; they may underbid to get the job then tack onto the price once the job has started.
6. Call your local Home Builders Association and ask for referrals. Members have to take continuing education courses and keep their licenses in order to be a member.
Check for a contractor’s licenses and proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance. A city or county occupational license is not the same thing. Call the state contractor’s licensing board to make sure they are legitimate. Generally, a contractor must keep their insurance up to date and take part in continuing education courses to keep their license.
The state licensing board will also have information on any complaints that have been filed against the contractor.
Doing your homework before you start the job can save you a lot of money and heartache later on.