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Concerns about questionable contractors are the number one reason consumers call the Better Business Bureau.

This statistic doesn’t surprise Phae Howard, executive director of the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud.

“It’s easy money since most people don’t understand the language of home improvement,” says Howard, who recently published Don’t Even Think About Ripping Me Off!

Concerned about becoming a victim? Then keep these things in mind when it comes to hiring a contractor for your home improvement project.

Finding a contractor

  • Check in with your local homebuilders’ association.
  • Get referrals from friends, family and coworkers.
  • Compile a list of reputable contractors before you need one. The stress of an emergency might impair your judgment.

How to vet a contractor

  • See if the trade association(s) where he or she belongs stipulates a code of ethics, minimum hours of satisfactory work and trade exams.
  • Check in with your state attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the contractor.

Paperwork you need to see

  • A copy of their contractor’s license
  • Certificate of insurance for both general liability and workers’ compensation coverage
  • A written warranty for the work they do
  • A list of references from people who had similar projects done
  • A detailed quote that itemizes material and labor
  • A contract detailing the cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations

Red flags

  • Asks you to pay the entire balance up front
  • Only accepts cash
  • Avoids giving you a written contract
  • Goes door-to-door
  • Lists a P.O. Box instead of a street address
  • Has a vehicle that doesn’t list the business name
  • Offers to pay your insurance deductible

Be extra careful if:

  • You have little to no experience hiring home contractors.
  • A disability or injury prevents you from accessing areas of your home that a contractor claims are damaged.
  • You’re not 100 percent clear about the contract wording.
  • You tend to shy away from asking tough questions.

Finally, always let your Insurance Agent  know when you’re planning a home improvement project. If you don’t, you run the risk of coming up short if you have to rebuild after a total loss.

Posted 12:10 AM  View Comments

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