Summer is here, and for many homeowners, that means it’s time to get some work done around the house. A new roof, a new deck, a fresh coat of paint, or any number of other projects will be on the list. These improvements are great, and we hope that whatever you’re planning to do this year is successful, but we want to make sure that you get exactly what you pay for.
When hiring a contractor to do this work, it is imperative that you take steps to protect yourself. This is the prime season for scam artists to come around and promise you all sorts of great things that they can do – at a price that can’t be beat – and make off with your money. Unfortunately, in many of these cases it becomes difficult or impossible to find the culprits once you realize you’ve been scammed, or maybe you know exactly who it is, but the cost of pursuing them outweighs the benefit. To make sure you aren’t getting taken for a ride, follow a few basic precautions:
1. Do Your Homework. A reputable contractor will be able to give you references and information about his or her insurance policy, license, if applicable, and bond. They won’t pressure you to sign a contract or make a deposit until you have reviewed those materials and contacted their references, and they won’t make excuses about why certain items are not available.
2. Know What You Need. If a door-to-door sales rep comes to your house telling you that your roof needs to be patched, your driveway needs to be resurfaced, or anything else, you should approach that person with a healthy degree of skepticism. Don’t give him or her money on the spot, and certainly don’t let the work begin until you are satisfied that their assessment is correct and you have done your homework on them.
3. Get Everything in Writing. They are called “contractors” for a reason. You should have a contract, in writing, for everything they do. If you ask them to do more or less than originally planned, make sure it is in writing. If they ask you to change the price because of some unforeseen circumstance, have them explain it to you, show you what happened, and get the change in writing. When you get your invoice, compare it to the contract. If you have questions, ask the contractor about the items you aren’t sure about.
4. Understand Your Down Payment. Unless you have a great relationship with your contractor, you are probably going to be asked for money upfront. Typically, this money goes to some of the labor cost and some of the cost of materials to begin the project. You should know what the initial deposit is for. Even if it is as simple as “half now, half when we finish,” you should understand where the money is going.
5. Check Their Work. When the contractor says she is done, examine the job, and make sure it looks right to you. If you want more work done, or another “coat of polish” or for it to look nicer, ask them. They may ask for more money, but you don’t want to sign off on the job until you agree it is complete. If they refuse to make changes or want to charge for work that you think should be included in the original fee, you may want to get a lawyer involved. One thing that happens a lot is that a client pays for work, then decides the work
was not up to par. At that point, you have lost the advantage because the contractor is holding the disputed money.
Most contractors are good. They do good work at a fair price, and they’ll make your home safer, better-looking, and more comfortable. Scammers give these contractors a bad name, and if you aren’t careful, they will ruin your summer as well. If you want to have a contractor’s estimate or proposed contract reviewed, or if you think you have been scammed, give us a call and schedule an appointment.
Ben Worsowicz is an Associate at Lardiere McNair, LLC. To read more about our firm, please visit www.lmcounsel.com.
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