Keys to Recruiting a Reliable Contractor
A friend of mine was recently ripped off by an unscrupulous contractor who essentially took the money and ran without completing his end of the deal. My friend failed to do her homework regarding the contractor’s background, and now the likelihood of recovering her money is pretty slim.
My friend learned a lesson: You should always conduct a background check on prospective contractors. Not only will you need trust them to work on your home, but you’ll often have to trust them inside your home. Get references of past homeowners they claim to have worked for, and follow up those references with phone calls. If you can’t verify the name, physical address, telephone number or credentials of the remodeler, then avoid him (or her) at all costs. Those are signs you may be dealing with a shady character, or at the very least, an unprofessional one.
Some other red flags include a remodeler who tries to pressure you into signing a contract, or one who offers a “special, low rate” or an exclusive one-time offer if you sign the contract “today.” And never, ever pay for the entire job in advance.
Make sure to check the contractor’s insurance and license, and make sure everything is up-to-date and valid. Your contractor should also be patient, exhibit strong communication skills and remain accessible. If the person in question doesn’t measure up, you may very well regret hiring them.
In case you’re wondering, “How do I know if the remodeler is patient and communicative before I hire them?” You’re best bet is to thoroughly interview anyone you plan to hire to work on your home. Be nosy and be assertive. Furthermore, the contractor should inform you of your right to cancel the contract within three days. According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, notification in writing of your Right of Recision is required by law. This grace period allows you to change your mind and declare the contract null and void, and extending this notice to you is a sign that your contractor is conscious of professional ethics.
Don’t get me wrong; most remodelers are skilled and responsible individuals, but in any line of work you’re apt to find a few bad eggs. So, when hiring work for your next remodeling job, keep your eyes open and do the legwork to make sure your contractor is on the up-and-up. It’s the only way to avoid unethical builders and to protect against home-improvement fraud.
(originally published as Editor’s Letter, April 2008)