The arrival of autumn means many homeowners will take advantage of the cooler weather to begin home improvement projects. As the home improvement industry regularly ranks among the top five sources of complaints year after year, Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to choose contractors with care to avoid getting help from dishonest individuals.
“Fall is the perfect time to start attacking some of those projects around the house”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Some of those jobs will require a little bit of help, but it’s important remember that choosing the right contractor can make the difference between a successful home renovation project and a disaster.”
BBB provides the following guidelines on selecting a trustworthy home improvement service.
Solicit at least three bids from prospective contractors based upon the same specifications, materials, labor and time needed to complete the project. Discuss bids in detail with each contractor, making certain you understand the reasons for any variations in the prices. Remember not to make a decision based solely on the lowest bid. Cost differences may include issues such as quality of materials, craftsmanship and subcontracting for specialized labor.
Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision, no matter how convincing the story and attractive the price. Reputable contractors will allow you time to think about their offer and get competing bids. The crooks want to get their money and get out of town as fast as possible.
Ask for a business card or other literature with a company name, phone number and address. Having this information isn't a guarantee of legitimacy, but not having it is a red flag that you may be talking to a fly-by-night operator.
Ask about the company’s insurance. Do they carry worker’s compensation, property damage and liability insurance? Call to verify the contractor’s insurance coverage after obtaining the name of the carrier and agency.
Check references. BBB recommends homeowners ask all contractors for local references and then take the next step by finding out if those customers were satisfied with the contractor’s work. If possible, homeowners should visit and inspect completed projects.
Ask the contractor to provide a lien waiver when the job is completed. A lien waiver is a statement that all suppliers and contractors have been paid for materials and labor.
Get everything in writing. Be sure to have a detailed description of the work to be done, materials to be used, and an estimated start and end date.
Be wary of any contractor who demands payment in full before starting work and only accepts cash. In some cases, a contractor may need a down payment to cover materials, but the bulk of the money should not be due until the work is complete. As cash cannot be traced, paying with a credit card, check or other traceable methods are your best interest.
To find a reliable contractor you can trust, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373 or use BBB Scam Tracker.