A contractor’s blunt advice on hiring a remodeling contractor after Hurricane Harvey.
by Keko Moore
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Following Hurricane Harvey, it seems that everyone (or their brother) has become a contractor. Yes, we need labor to help us rebuild but we need to be sure that the labor is capable, financially viable and well-intended. Too many times following disasters of this type there is an epidemic of fraudulent contractors and fly-by-night swindlers who are after your money. It is hard to know where to turn and whom to trust. Be sure to qualify contractors with a few simple steps:
· Are they properly insured? You should ask to see their insurance policy. Many people will blatantly lie about having insurance because very few people check. You should ask a few key questions. How much is their coverage? Is it enough? Is it covered for the work they perform or something less? Even if they do not know this information by memory, they should willingly show you this before you sign any agreement. You should call the insurance company for verification if there are any questions. No legitimate contractor would ever object.
· Do Your Online Research. Any reputable company nowadays will have a researchable web presence. If necessary, research the company team. Are they a member of GHBA or another trade association? Are the reviews positive? Are they proactive to problems? If possible, message some of the people who have reviewed the company? Most of this research is simple and quick but will give you valuable insight.
· Get a Clear Scope of Work. You must make sure everything (yes, everything)you want (or think) will be done is on the contract job scope. There is no limit to how much detail can be provided on the job scope. Be very wary of contractors who tell you not to worry about writing everything down. If they intend on performing the work, then they will have no problem including it in the contract. This is where many customers will unwittingly get taken advantage.
· Get a warranty in writing. Almost every contractor will say they provide a warranty – typically 1-3 years. But most wont detail what the “warranty’ covers. Make sure you ask questions about their warranty process and how you would make a warranty claim in the event of a repair. Their response should be simple and straightforward. People who tell you they’ve never had warranty issues are probably new in the business or lying.
· Get Lien Waivers. Every legitimate contractor has dealt with lien waivers. They are put in place as a measure to protect the customer from future litigation. At a minimum, a contractor should provide you with a lien waiver at the final payment of a project. Some larger jobs may require lien waivers periodically throughout the project. Either way, a well-intending remodeler will have no issue with providing lien waivers.
· Call the Referrals they provide you. You should contact 2-3 of the referrals provided. You may not be surprised to know that most people do not call referrals, because you don't either.While some referrals you call may bog you down in the details of their own project – because remodels can be an emotional experience for some – try to discern a few important facts. Did they reasonably stay on schedule and on budget? How well did they address issues and errors? How well did they communicate? A few prepared questions to ask the referral will shorten the length of the phone calls.
Be diligent in your questioning and shop around until you’re satisfied. If needed, spending a few weeks looking for the right contractor is exponentially worth the trouble. Remind yourself that if they seem sub par or ill-equipped during your vetting process, they will most likely be even less impressive a month into your remodel. While these steps won’t guarantee you a 'problem-free' remodel, they will lessen the likelihood of you getting ripped off – either intentionally or unintentionally.