It is 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, exploitative contractors often flock to an area to take advantage of the distressed homeowners who are trying to repair the damage or rebuild their homes.
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 for post-disaster repairs or a planned renovation of your home. Here are some common warning signs:
Price and payment
• You are 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 are asked to pay the full cost in advance, before work begins. Paying a deposit of 20 percent to 50 percent is common, however.
• You are asked to pay cash to a salesperson instead of a check, money order or credit card to a company.
• The salesperson says you are getting a special low price because you have 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 does not 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 check for complaints and find an Upstate company’s rating at http://www.upstatesc.bbb.org.
• The contractor will not provide references for past work, or the references cannot be reached.
• The business has a bad review – or doesn’t even appear – on consumer websites such as Angie’s List.
Contract and completion
• You are 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 are 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.
Heeding these warning signs will help you select a contractor who will do quality work, and stand behind it. This month, the Home Builders Association of Greenville implemented new Standards of Membership for our builder and remodeler members to help consumers select qualified home building and home improvement professionals, and assure consumers that doing business with a member of the HBA of Greenville is a good investment.
To learn more about finding a reliable contractor with an established business in our community, contact the Home Builders Association of Greenville. And, make plans to attend the Fall Southern Home & Garden Show Sept. 28-30 at TD Convention Center where you can meet many building and remodeling specialists all under one roof.