BBB: home contracting tips
Whether you are looking to have your home windows replaced, new siding installed on your garage or a pool built or repaired for the summer months ahead, it's always important to find a home contractor that you can trust. Better Business Bureau recommends following this smart shopper checklist before choosing a contractor for your home.
In 2011, BBB received more than 6,000 complaints against general contractors. This is up 11% from the previous 2010 statistics. While there are many trustworthy and reliable contractors available, there are always those unscrupulous few that end up charging too much and doing too little…or nothing at all.
"It's important to use home contractor you can trust", said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. "Watch out for red flags from those just looking to make a quick buck."
Be especially wary of doing business with contractors who solicit business door-to-door. While this is not always the case, it could mean that the contractor is not from a local, established business and is instead just passing through and trying to scam innocent consumers. The City of Longview requires a permit for anyone to sell at your door. The City of Tyler passed an ordinance last year making it illegal for people to knock on your door before 10:00 a.m. and after sunset.
BBB advises consumers to follow this smart shopper checklist before choosing a home contractor:
Be picky and have lots of options. Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project. Homeowners should discuss bids in detail with each contractor and ask questions about variations in pricing. The lowest-priced contractor may not necessarily be the best deal.
Make sure they are certified and insured. Ask whether the company is insured against claims covering workers' compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage. Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city. Check with local authorities to find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work. Keep in mind that BBB has checked the licensing status on all BBB Accredited Businesses, so make sure you check out the company's report.
Get everything in writing. Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. Read and understand the contract before signing. Get all verbal promises in writing. Include start and completion dates in the contract.
Remember the rule of thirds and follow it. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.
Consider purchasing from local vendors. Not only does it help the local economy, it also protects you should you experience problems down the road. Keep in mind that a company from out of town is not likely to return to make any repairs or to make adjustments to your service.
BBB has Business Reviews on more than 100,000 general contractors across North America, available for free at www.bbb.org/search. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.