13 July 2015
Don’t Get Ripped Off on Home Repairs

The house needs painting. The roof leaks. Your driveway has more holes than Swiss cheese. You need some home repairs, but you’re wary of picking out a company from the phone book. So, how do you find the right person or company to handle routine home repairs?

Today, the Internet simplifies your search for home repair companies with websites like Angie’s List® or Yelp®. These review websites collect consumer reviews from people who have hired the companies you’re considering, and a few bad reviews is all it takes to steer you to another service provider – one with good reviews for reliability and quality of work.

However, you shouldn’t simply check review sites like these. It’s your job, as a homeowner, to check out the repair companies who work on your home to keep it in tip-top shape. There are steps you can take to protect yourself from home repair scams and the people and companies who are more interested in getting paid than fixing your roof or driveway.

Home repair scams are common and, unfortunately, they can be difficult to resolve. You’re better off doing some research now to find the right service provider than trying to get your money back after you realize you’ve been scammed.

Make certain your repair contractor has a good reputation. It’s important to know who you’re hiring. Never hire a company or individual who cold calls, ringing your doorbell to tell you your roof needs repair. Most reputable companies don’t make cold calls. Their calendars are already filled with jobs.

Get at least three references from other homeowners who have used the company you’re considering. A reputable company will be happy to provide references from satisfied customers because they’re satisfied customers.

Call these references, tell them you’re considering the XYZ Company and ask if the reference would hire them again. Nothing builds confidence in your repair service like a few really happy customers. Just remember this: no contractor will use a dissatisfied customer as a reference.

Check the prospective contractor’s credentials. Make sure any contractor you hire is credentialed by Nevada state law. Anyone can say they’re certified by a professional association or licensed by the state, but you should contact the Nevada Attorney General’s web page to make sure the provider is, indeed, licensed to work in Nevada.

Also, our state maintains an online list of licensed contractors that you can access through the Nevada Contractors Board. A licensed repair contractor must meet certain criteria to maintain thatNevada state license. Always check to make sure your contractor is licensed to perform home repairs.

Also, from the same Nevada Contractors Board, download some sensible advice on choosing a reputable contractor to work on your home. This advice is not only free, it can save a whole lot of headaches in selecting the right contractor to handle the job.

Contact your local Better Business Bureau. The BBB tracks consumer complaints and also how those complaints are resolved. You can find the address of your local BBB by conducting a Google search for the Better Business Bureau followed by your zip code, e.g., Better Business Bureau 89101.

Never hire a contractor who offers to save you money by using left-over materials from another job nearby. This old scam has been around since scammers have been ripping off customers. If the service provider has left-over material, they probably aren’t very good at buying and pricing repair materials. Just say NO!

Walk away from the hard sell. A reputable, trustworthy service provider doesn’t have to push to close a new client. If a contractor gives you the hard sell, and even calls you after you’ve said “No”, look for a better contractor who’s not quite so desperate.

Always ask for proof of insurance. Ask to see proof of insurance. If the provider doesn’t have insurance, you could be liable for injuries that occur on the job. A reputable contractor will carry a lot of insurance coverage to protect the business.

Skip the big down payment. Give an unscrupulous contractor a big down payment, and there’s not a lot of incentive to get the job done quickly. Negotiate a lower initial payment and create payment milestones before the contractor starts working on your place.

Get a written contract from any service provider. The contract should detail:

  • when the contractor will start the job;
  • work milestones with firm dates;
  • payment milestones tied to work milestones, i.e. when the first coat of paint is dry, the contractor gets another 20% of the total agreed-upon price;
  • a completion date;
  • a complete description of the work to be done, also called a statement of work or SOW;
  • make sure the contract provides assurances that sub-contractors are covered by the primary contractor’s insurance; a sub-contractor who doesn’t get paid by the contractor you hire could put a lien on your home;
  • a detailed description of the materials used by the contractor; cheap paint indicates a contractor more interested in turning a larger profit than doing the job right;
  • a guarantee that all work will be to your satisfaction for a certain period of time, e.g., six months for a minor repair, or several years for exterior paint or roofing.

Know your rights. Nevada protects consumers from scammers out for a quick buck. Log on to the Bureau of Consumer Protection for more information.

 

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

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