Hiring a contractor is a major decision, and not one to be taken lightly. For most of us our home is our biggest single asset, and it is important to protect that home by checking out any potential contractor carefully. It is essential for any homeowner to ask plenty of questions before hiring a contractor, and it is important to follow up with the local licensing authorities to make sure that the contractor you are considering has passed muster with those authorities.
Before you hire a contractor for your home be sure you understand, and watch out for, the top 10 ways shady contractors could rip you off.
- Failing to have the proper licenses for the parts of the country where they operate. The rules vary, but many states and localities require that all general contractors be licensed in the states where they operate. Some contractors try to cut corners and unfairly boost their profits by failing to obtain these required licenses.
- Charging for materials that were never delivered. Most homeowners would not know how much wood it takes to build a deck or add a room, so some unscrupulous contractors may try to charge for materials that were never used. It is important for those homeowners to get lists of all materials that were used during the job, and to ensure that the amount of material used makes sense.
- Charging for higher quality materials than what was actually used. Sometimes a shady contractor may charge for granite counter tops while installing a poor quality substitute, or substitute inferior materials in other ways. It is important for homeowners to examine the materials thoroughly and question anything that appears to be of inferior quality.
- Working with unqualified or unlicensed subcontractors. Hiring a great general contractor does not guarantee great results. That is because some contractors may subcontract out parts of the job, and the quality of those subcontractors can vary widely. When hiring a contractor be sure to ask whether or not subcontractors will be used.
- Not disclosing subcontracted work. The best way to determine if subcontractors will be used is to ask, but not every homeowner will know enough to ask this vital question. While in a perfect world every contractor would disclose any subcontracted work when preparing the estimate, this is rarely the case.
- Failing to get the proper permits. In a perfect world contractors would make sure that all necessary permits were in place before they got started, but that is not necessarily the case. Some shady operators will try to cut corners by failing to pay for permits, and that could leave the homeowner holding the bag. It is therefore important for homeowners to follow up with their local township offices to make sure that all needed permits have been filed. Failure to file permits can be a sign of trouble to come, so if such an oversight is uncovered it may be time to look for another contractor.
- Failing to stand by their estimates. Getting an estimate is essential, but some shady contractors will provide a lowball estimate and try to make it up once the job has been awarded. It is important to check back frequently while the work is being done to get a good idea of how the work is progressing and how well the estimate is holding up.
- Failing to carry proper insurance. All contractors should have proper insurance in place, but some shady operators may try to save money by carrying less insurance than they need – or forgoing insurance altogether. It is important for homeowners to make sure that the contractor they hire has sufficient insurance coverage in place.
- Not staying until the job has been completed. We have all heard about those fly by night operators who take a deposit and disappear in the middle of the night. This is an all too common practice, and one that homeowners have to be aware of.
- Demanding payment in full before the job is done. While a reasonable up front payment for materials and supplies is definitely in order, demanding payment in full before the work is finished can be a real sign of trouble. If your contractor is demanding payment up front you may need to look for a new contractor.