With the new year, you may be thinking of work you want to do around the house. If you're considering hiring a contractor, you'll want to find someone you feel comfortable trusting your home and savings to. Some contractors end up not being able to deliver on the agreed upon work. The worst of the bunch do shoddy work or don't finish the job at all. Here are some early warning signs that you may want to avoid the contractor you're considering.
1.) Few or suspicious references. Reliable, hard-working contractors earn a long list of satisfied customers. If your potential hire supplies you with just a few names or has trouble giving you contact information, it could indicate a shady history in the business. If it’s impossible to contact the person you want to interview or the person you reach has trouble recalling or articulating the work done by the company, you can tell the references aren’t checking out.
2.) Lack of work samples. Just as you want to hear testimonies from previous clients, you want to see former work samples that demonstrate the contractor’s work quality. Your potential hire should have past projects that he can show you. Some companies have work samples on their web sites, and others may be able to show you a portfolio in person. If your potential hire procrastinates or has trouble finding something to show you, it could be a signal to beware.
3.) No paper trail. The most important documents you will want to see are a work license and registration. Your potential hire should also have liability insurance and workers’ compensation. Without them, you may be liable for damages if any workers get hurt on the job. The paperwork trails continues with your contract. You need one. Period. It's also a wise idea to check records at the Better Business Bureau or local Consumer Protection Agency to be sure your potential hire doesn’t have a history of being sued.
4.) A bad day’s work. You often learn the most by observing the way your contractor approaches work on site. The contractor may give you a summary of what will be done on a given day or sequence of days. You may notice that initial goals don’t get finished on time due to a long list of “unavoidable” delays. One day or a week’s performance could be a good reflection of how the job will pan out in the long run. Other negative signs include the contractor repeatedly arriving late or taking excessive breaks.
5.) You get a gut feeling. Beyond the formalities, trust your own instinct. Isolated gestures or a string of suspicious actions early are critical signs that you should avoid a contractor. Perhaps the potential hire requests a large advance up front and in cash. Maybe the contractor does not have a legitimate business address or finds significant problems that weren’t included in the original estimate. Maybe it’s not something specific, just a bad feeling from something as simple as the fact that the contractor never looks you in the eye. You have every right to be selective about the company you choose to give your hard-earned dollars and access to your living space. Sometimes, finding someone you can trust depends on trusting your own sound judgment.