It’s an unfortunate fact of life that after a natural or man-made disaster, there are people who will try to profit from a community’s misfortune. Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, windstorms and other disasters can destroy lives and property without warning. Sadly, in the wake of the tragedy, unscrupulous contractors often flock to an area to take advantage of the distressed home owners who are trying to repair the damage or rebuild their homes.
But a fly-by-night contractor is one disaster you can prevent if you pay attention to some common warning signs. In fact, it makes sense to look for these signs when you are evaluating any potential contractor, whether it’s for post-disaster repairs or a planned-for renovation to your home.
Here are some common warning signs:
Price and payment
• You’re told you have to sign the contract today to get the quoted price, and that if you sign later the price will be higher.
• You’re asked to pay the full cost in advance, before work begins. Paying a deposit of anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent is common, however.
• You’re asked to pay cash to a salesperson instead of a check, money order or credit card to a company.
• The salesperson says you’re getting a special low price because you’ve been “chosen” as a demonstration project.
• The contractor asks you to sign over your insurance settlement check to him instead of paying him directly.
• The contractor doesn’t have a verifiable mailing address for his business.
• The business has complaints that have not been resolved against them with the Better Business Bureau. You can find the nearest Better Business Bureau location at www.bbb.org/us/find-a-bbb/.
• The contractor won’t provide references for past work, or the references can’t be reached.
• The business has a bad review – or doesn’t even appear – on consumer websites such as Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com).
Contract and completion
• You’re told that “a contract won’t be necessary.” Make sure you insist on a complete and clearly written contract signed by you and the contractor.
• You’re expected to make final payment before the job is completely finished and you are fully satisfied with it. Find out if any of the work requires city or county inspection, and make sure that is done and you have paperwork to prove it before you make the final payment.
Paying attention to these warning signs will help you select a contractor who will do quality work, and stand behind it. To learn more about finding a reliable contractor with an established business in our community, contact the Local HBA in your area.