By Jeanne Roberts
Finding a dependable general contractor may take a lot of work. Perhaps up to a dozen phone calls, Internet searches or actual trips to city hall, but it is vital for home improvement projects plus your peace of mind will be assured.
Not only is your home likely your largest and most valuable asset, but shoddy workmanship can reduce or even negate its value if work results in a lawsuit against you by a friend or neighbor injured on your property.
Federal officials say don’t rely on a listing in the Yellow Pages or an ad from a local flyer. One-minute spots on radio and TV are equally unreliable. The best way to evaluate a contractor is to talk to friends and neighbors who have had satisfactory or even exemplary work done.
Alternatively you may want to contact your local Better Business Bureau (BBB), which rates area home repair businesses based on consumer complaints and positive reviews. If a general contractor is a member of the BBB, they will have a torch next to their listing.
One red flag that should alert you is a company or individual who solicits business door-to-door, usually under the pretext of working in your neighborhood or with the explanation that he (or she) has leftover materials from a previous job.
Another danger sign is a contractor who offers a discount if you generate additional business by way of referrals to family or friends; one who requires you to get any building permit needed; one who refers you to a relatively unknown lender; one who accepts only cash; one that fails to inform you of the federally mandated (TILA) 3-day cancellation period; one who does not have a listed phone number; and one who cannot provide adequate references, including a name and address of former customers.
Actual business licenses may be a secondary consideration, since not all states mandate them. But appropriate insurance coverage, in the form of contractor’s liability and property damage insurance, is essential. Ask to see either the actual (and current) insurance document, or the name of the insuror.
In Oklahoma, Attorney General Drew Edmondson reports receiving a number of complaints that out-of-state roofers are posing as local companies – even to the extent of using local company names and logos – to solicit business.
Calling these operators “fly-by-night” contractors, Edmondson has issued a warning through his office, but urges continued vigilance on the part of Oklahomans when it comes to finding a roof repair company.
Edmondson’s recommendations are equally simple. In addition to the steps outlined above, contact your state Attorney General’s office to see if any complaints have been filed. Make the company representative put every claim, warranty or promise in writing, and never make a down payment or final payment until you are satisfied with the work.