Monthly Crime Prevention Tip
From Police Chief Anderson
Home improvements and repairs can cost thousands of dollars and are the subject of frequent complaints. When selecting a contractor:
· Get recommendations and references. Talk to friends, family, and others who have used the contractor for similar work.
· Get at least three written estimates. Insist that contractors come to your home to evaluate what needs to be done. Be sure the estimates are based on the same work so you can make meaningful comparisons.
· Check contractor complaint records with your state or local consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau.
· Make sure the contractor meets licensing and registration requirements. Your state or local consumer protection agency can help you determine the necessary requirements.
· Get the names of suppliers and ask them whether the contractor makes timely payments.
· Contact your local building inspection department to check for permits and inspection requirements. Be wary if the contractor asks you to get the permit; it could mean the firm is not licensed.
· Be sure your contractor is insured. The contractor should have personal liability, property damage, and workers’ compensation insurance for workers and subcontractors.
· Insist on a written contract that states exactly what work will be done, the quality of materials that will be used, warranties, timetables, the names of any subcontractors, the total price of the job, and the schedule of payments.
· Try to limit your down payment. Some states have laws limiting the amount of down payment required.
· Understand your payment options. Compare the cost of getting your own loan versus contractor financing.
· Don’t make a final payment or sign a final release until you are satisfied with the work and know that subcontractors and suppliers have been paid. Beware: some state laws allow unpaid subcontractors and suppliers to put a lien on your home for bills the contractor failed to pay.
· Pay by credit card when you can. You may have the right to withhold payment to the credit card company until problems are corrected.
Be especially cautious if the contractor:
· Comes door-to-door or seeks you out.
· Happens to have material left over from a recent job.
· Offers you discounts for finding other customers.
· Quotes a price that is out of line with other estimates.
· Pressures you for an immediate decision.
· Can only be reached by leaving messages with an answering service.
· Has no physical address for the business.
· Has out-of-state license plates.
· Asks you to pay for the entire job up front.