Severe weather can cause damage that prompts homeowners to seek repairs in a hurry. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to take a deep breath and check contractors out before signing a contract.
“Consumers may feel like their repairs are an emergency that must be fixed immediately,” said Sheryl Bilbrey, BBB president and CEO. “But they may end up regretting a quick decision if the contractor fails to do the work or does it poorly. Consumers need to make sure that the contractors they hire are qualified and reliable before they sign a contract or pay any money.”
The BBB recommends that consumers ask contractors for local references and check with those customers to see whether they were satisfied with the work. If possible, inspect completed projects as well. If customers are pleased with the jobs, they’ll probably be proud to show off the results.
Consumers can check contractors’ Reliability Reports on the BBB website, www.bbb.org. The reports give a letter grade from A+ down to F that indicate a company’s performance on 16 weighted factors, including its response to any complaints. The reports also give general information, such as the company’s phone number, length of time in business and owner’s name.
On the San Diego BBB’s website, sandiego.bbb.org, our “Request A Quote” feature can connect you with contractors that are BBB Accredited Businesses. These businesses have pledged to comply with BBB standards, such as advertising honestly, honoring promises and responding to customer complaints.
When you click on the“Request A Quote” button, you can select the type of business you are searching for and narrow your search to businesses within a specified distance from your home. (You can click on any business name to get a Reliability Report.) At that point, you may either contact the businesses directly or ask them to contact you. “Request A Quote" has a contact form that allows you to describe your project and ask contractors to contact you about it in the way you want to be contacted – by phone, e-mail, mail or fax.
The BBB has the following tips for hiring contractors:
- Be cautious of door-to-door salespeople who use high-pressure sales tactics.
- Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project. Homeowners should discuss bids in detail with each contractor and ask questions about variations in pricing. The lowest-priced contractor may not be the best.
- Consumers should ask whether the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage.
- Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city.
- Check with local authorities to find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work. The contractor also should be aware of any required permits.
- Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
- Read and understand the contract before signing. Get any verbal promises in writing. Include start and completion dates in the contract.
- Remember the rule of thirds. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.
For more information to help you make smart, informed decisions about projects around your home, check with the BBB by going online to www.bbb.org.