What are warning signs of a shady contractor?
Be watchful of the following tactics. And remember, trust your gut. If you don’t get a good feeling about the contractor, don’t use them.
- Offers unsolicited services: If a contactor stops by and gives you an unexpected estimate for projects like driveway sealing, chimney rebuilds and roof repair — projects that are commonly pitched to homeowners.
- Has “material left over”: Be cautious if the quote includes a reduced price on the work because of "materials left over from a job down the street".
- Home demonstration discount: If the quote includes a discount for using your home as a demonstration.
- Extra pushy: Employs pushy door-to-door sales tactics.
- Limited time offers: If the contractor says you need to place a deposit immediately to secure a spot in his schedule or to get a good price on material.
- Not local: Appear to be from out of town or working out of a pickup truck.
- Demands immediate payment in full: You should not pre-pay for any work.
- Accepts cash only: Always a red flag.
- Provides no written contract: All the details of the work should be written out in advance.
- No references: And are not willing to produce them.
- No insurance or licensing: Fails to provide proof of insurance and proper licensing.
- Finance through a friend: Suggest financing or recommend financing through someone they know.
- Ask you to secure any required permits: Most communities require the contractor to acquire the proper permits.
- Not insured: Don’t take promises of insurance compensation for any repairs.
What should you look out for after a contractor begins a project?
- Calls from subcontractors: Subcontractors are reaching out to you personally for payment for work completed.
- Pricey unexpected expenses: It is common to have unexpected expenses arise, but when they are frequent or very expensive. Make sure to reach out to a home inspector or call another reputable contractor in your area for a second opinion.
- Lack of activity: There is no activity on the job site during peak working hours.
- Poor communication regarding progress: If your contractor stops returning your calls and is not showing up to the job site, contact your local Better Business Bureau.
- Shoddy tools and low grade materials: Ensure the material the contractor is using matches what he listed on the estimate.
Ways to protect yourself from shady contractors
When looking for a contractor to remodel, renovate your home or to help you recover from a weather disaster, consider these tips.
- Get multiple quotes from local established businesses.
- Take time to make your decision.
- Do your research. Look into professional affiliations and Better Business Bureau reports, and follow up on references from previous clients.
- Check for up-to-date licenses, and verify insurance protection.
- Insist on written estimates and a contract that includes contact information, important dates, and a breakdown of costs. According to Federal Trade Commission rulings, you may be able to cancel a contract of more than $25 within three business days of signing it at your home or in a seller's temporary business location.
The National Association of Home Builders offers additional tips for hiring a dependable professional contractor. For storm repair tips, visit the Better Business Bureau website. And before you hire any contractor for storm-related repairs, always contact your insurance agent to be sure repairs will be covered.