BBB Tips for Hiring a Contractor:
Start with trust
Most homeowners have heard of, and in some cases experienced, shady contractors that ask for payment up front, perform shoddy work, and then refuse refunds or return to correct issues. BBB encourages homeowners to do their homework – starting online at www.bbb.org where they can search for free. Consumers are encouraged to choose a BBB Accredited Business - BBB’s online directory for BBB-accredited contractors and remodeling businesses in their area. This means that the BBB has already done thorough research on the company and the company has agreed to follow the BBB's 8 standards of trust, including being transparent, advertising honestly, honor promises and be responsive.
BBB recommends homeowners ask all contractors for local references (2-3) and then take the next step by finding out if those customers were satisfied with the contractor’s work. If possible, homeowners should visit and inspect completed projects.
Ask the experts
BBB advises that homeowners find out if a contractor is a member of a professional association which has standards or a code of ethics. All BBB Accredited Businesses have agreed to uphold BBB standards for ethics in the marketplace. Homeowners can also check with BBB to learn how long a contractor has been in business and if the firm has been responsive to any complaints filed with BBB. Also, check CCAP for cases and google the company.
Homeowners should solicit at least three bids from prospective contractors based upon the same building specifications, materials, labor and time needed to complete the project. Homeowners need to discuss bids in detail with each contractor, making certain they understand the reasons for any variations in the prices and not automatically making a decision based on lowest price. Cost differences may include issues such as quality of materials, craftsmanship and subcontracting for specialized labor.
Check on insurance
BBB reminds homeowners to ask contractors if the company is insured against claims covering worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Further, BBB advises people to then call to verify the contractor’s insurance coverage after obtaining the name of the carrier and agency.
Are they bonded/licensed?
Contractors must typically meet licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city housing authority. Homeowners should confirm the contractor meets all requirements and can legally operate in the state.
Make sure you read and understand the contract before signing. Once you sign, you become legally bound to the contract. However, remember that if you sign the contract away from the place of business - the Right of Recission applies - which says you have three legal business days to cancel (just be sure to put it in writing, mail it so that it is postmarked by the 3rd business day, and keep a copy for your records).
Also - make sure the contract includes: The company's name, address, and phone number and has start and completion dates written into it.
Don't make a quick decision
This is major work. The BBB recommends that you don't make a quick decision. Take time to compare prices, check references and do your research before hiring any company.
Never pay up front or in full
Only pay the balance once the work is completed and to your satisfaction. 1/3 down should be sufficient - if you must pay anything down. Then, pay 1/3 when the project is underway and the balance at completion. Don't pay in cash - pay with a credit card whenever possible.
it’s important that homeowners make smart, informed decision affecting their most valuable investment – their homes.