I’m aware today is Sunday! With that in mind, I will tell you I’m writing this article on Wednesday morning. Even though it is cool outside, the sun is shining brightly, and the leaves on the trees are finally starting to fill in, matching the grass with rich, green color.
Yes, a day like today really lifts the spirits, especially with the doom and gloom we’ve all had to put up with lately. Like many of you, I am more than ready to take on those tasks that have been put off for far too long, such as spring spruce up and repairing.
Which brings me to a phone call I received late last week from an elderly woman who, at the end of March, decided she wanted to put new siding on her home. She explained to me she had found a contractor that wasn’t booked up and would do it on short notice. He came out, gave her the cost of the job and said he would need the entire cost of the project paid upfront. She wrote the check, the contractor came out, started the job, and she hasn’t seen him since! She has called the number he gave her many times, to no avail.
Upon questioning, the obviously distraught woman realized her situation was a textbook example of what NOT to do.
I asked her for his name. She said he did not have a business card and only remembered his first name. I asked for the company’s address on the contract. She told me there was no address or phone number on the contract, just the business’s name. When asked if she remembered what signage was on the contractor’s truck, she told me there was nothing. As I said, textbook.
Before having any work done, BBB wants you to be aware of some important red flags our unfortunate woman didn’t see:
• It should concern you if a contractor or service provider lacks, is vague or reluctant to furnish proper identification, including business cards and contracts. Legitimate providers have no problem furnishing them.
• Contractors demanding large sums of money up front before they start the work is a big red flag.
• Fly-by-night contractors commonly drive pickup trucks with no identification or telephone numbers.
Here are some simple precautions you can take to protect yourself from having an experience like our victim:
• Check any contractors’ or service providers’ references by visiting some of their past worksites to check the quality of the work done. Asking family and friends for referrals is important as well.
• Get at least three or four estimates on any repair or service work before signing a contract.
• If you can, pay by credit card. You may have additional protection if there’s a problem. If that is not an option, pay by check, never with cash. Never, ever pay the entire amount upfront.
• Be sure the contractor is up to date with any required state or government licenses or registrations.
• Outline exactly what work is to be done, the total cost, the time needed to complete the job, and exactly how payment is to be made.
• Check with us at the Better Business Bureau. We can give you the number and nature of any complaints on file plus give you the business’ BBB rating.
Every spring, BBB sees a big uptick in calls from consumers asking about reliable, trustworthy home improvement contractors and other service providers in our area. There are many such companies in our area that do-good work at fair prices. Feel free to give us a call.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.