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Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Contractors - Part 2

Here is the second part of the article on how to ensure that you have the right contractor for your home remodel.

Spend Time Interviewing

Do not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how silly you are afraid they are. It’s your money being spent and you have a right to ask what you want. If the contractor is a good one he will not be offended by the questions he is asked and will give you clear answers. A contractor who tries to confuse you with jargon or brushes off your questions with impatient answers is at best one without a client focus and at worst, one with something to hide.

Information to Obtain

  • Check the contractor’s legal status. Is he registered with the Better Business Bureau and other relevant organizations? Is his documentation properly printed with details of his registrations etc.?
  • Ensure that you have the contractor’s complete physical address. A PO Box will not be of any use if he abandons the project and you have to serve notice on him.
  • Do not just get the business and cell phone numbers, email address and so on of the key personnel who will be on your project. Check to make sure that they are correct and the people can be contacted.
  • If the project requires that the contractor has a state contractor’s license, get the full details. A local business license will not suffice.
  • Get complete details of the contractor’s insurance and check to see if you are covered for any negligence or deficiencies on his part.
  • Get a detailed scope of work with complete information on the plans, materials and timeframes.
  • Obtain a written warranty for the work to be done and if in doubt, have it checked by a lawyer to ensure that you are fully protected.

Payment Precautions

  • Do not pay cash. Pay your contractor only by check or credit card. This will provide documentation and proof of payment if you should need it. Do not give him your credit card or give any information that is not required for making payment.
  • Do not pay for work upfront. No reputable and established contractor will ask for a large advance. Most contractors bill only after the project, or a predesignated stage, has been completed.
  • An advance maybe required so that the contractor can fit you in his work plans and start arranging for materials etc. This should not be more than $1,000 to 10% of the total project cost. In many states this is the maximum that a contractor can ask for.
  • If the contractor asks for money to help him fix a mistake he has made, do not give it to him. It is the contractor’s responsibility to fix errors and this should be made clear in the contract.
  • Do not sign a completion certificate until all the work has been completed as specified by the contract.

There is an element of risk in any business dealing. Take all the precautions you can. One thing, beyond all else, that will give you peace of mind and go a long way towards ensuring you get the home you want is the reputation of the contractor and his attitude towards you and the project. A contractor who goes the extra mile to work with you to give you the home of your dreams is one who is focused on his clients and can be expected to do quality work.


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