Summer may be the ideal time for a home makeover, but Better Business Bureau warns of impostor contractors who not only end up doing shoddy work, but costing consumers thousands of dollars.
Last month, more than 43,000 consumers turned to BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington for information on contractors and remodeling services. According to the United States Census Bureau, homeowners spend more than $3,000 a year on home improvement projects.
Sadly many of these projects end up turning into a costly disaster. BBB and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries receive thousands of complaints on contractors and home remodeling companies each year.
While most contractors follow the rules, BBB advises homeowners to first nail down a plan before choosing a contractor for pricey jobs.
- Research companies. Collect as much information as possible about a business including permanent addresses, telephone numbers, tax ID numbers and business licenses. Use bbb.org to find quality local contractors.
- Check insurance coverage. Ask to see copies of liability coverage and workers’ compensation certificates. If contractors aren’t properly insured, homeowners may be liable for accidents that happen on their properties; ensure that coverage runs through job completions.
- Examine licensing and bonding. Make sure business are properly licensed and bonded. If overlooked, homeowners may be stuck with a lien on their home if subcontracts don’t get paid.
- Request references. Ask contractors for lists of completed projects and double-check with previous customers. Real customer reviews on local businesses are available at bbb.org.
- Get a written contract. Get the entire project description in writing. Understand warranties and any provisions that may void them. Have the contract include details on workmanship, payment schedule and finish date.
- Avoid large upfront payments. The initial payment should not exceed $1,000 or 10 percent of the total contract, and only pay for work that has been satisfactorily completed. Never sign a blank or partially-filled agreement, and always retain copies.
Finding the right company for the right job takes a little work, but it will be worth it in the end. Washingtonians are encouraged to visit L&I’s website to find licensed contractors and a Protect Your Home worksheet. To find reputable local contractors, visit BBB’s Accredited Business online directory.