Home projects should end in positive results, but things can go very wrong if you hire a fraudulent or unqualified contractor. Use the following advice to help avoid a nightmare.
Where to start
· Get names of reputable contractors from your agent, insurance company, neighbors, homeowners association, the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General’s office and/or a specialized consumer organization.
· Contact multiple contractors for comparison purposes.
All about estimates
· Tell contractors you are getting several estimates and ask if they can complete the work by a certain date. This will eliminate some prospects.
· Don’t allow a contractor to inspect your property if you’re not home. Personally watch while the contractor conducts the inspection.
· Ask the contractor if he has liability and workers’ compensation insurance that covers him and anyone else he will bring to the job site. Get the policy number and agency name. Call the agency to verify, and ask for a liability certificate of insurance. As a customer of the contractor, this should be free.
· Inquire about warranties on work.
· Get references for recent work, and call them to ask about issues and if they would use the contractor again. Look at the work if possible.
You’ve chosen a contractor. Now what?
· Get the terms and conditions of the project in writing. Include details on specific supplies being used and who will purchase and deliver them. Include an estimated completion date (accounting for weather with outdoor projects) and a price-deduction schedule if the work takes longer than promised.
· Make sure the contractor will get the necessary permits in his name.
· Avoid signing the contract until you have fully reviewed it and/or shown it to a legal representative or knowledgeable source.
· Pay the contractor by check or credit card rather than in cash so you have documentation of all payments.
· Don’t pay for work up front. Try to pay only when the work is done. If you agree to pay portions in stages, make the bulk of the payment at the project’s end, after passing inspections.
The most important rule
· Insist on a written estimate before agreeing to repairs, and put all details discussed here in writing.
Sources: Ohio Department of Insurance, PIAA instructor Ted Kinney, CIC, CPCU, ARM
Beware of fly-by-night contractors
After storms roll out, contractors often roll in, knocking on doors to offer repair and roofing services.
While you may be eager to get your home back in order, exercise caution as you make your decision.
Watch out: 7 warning signs
The Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) advises consumers to be wary of anyone who:
1. Uses high-pressure tactics
2. Is not registered with Ohio’s Secretary of State
3. Suggests you don’t contact your insurer
4. Asks you to give them Power of Attorney so they can negotiate with the insurance company
5. Provides an estimate substantially higher than other estimates
6. Asks you to sign a contract before it is fully completed (“I’ll fill in the rest later”)
7. Requires cash for a down payment
Note: If you believe a home-repair contractor has defrauded you or encouraged you to file a false insurance claim, call ODI’s Fraud and Enforcement Division at (800) 686-1527.