Throwing good money away on bad contractors

Years of claims experience still has not prepared me from what can become the hardest and saddest property claim nightmare for a homeowner – the bad contractor. Whether the contractor is hired for maintenance, renovations, or to repair damage from a covered claim, turning a home or business property into the hands of an incompetent or downright fraudulent contractor is a homeowner’s worst nightmare. In the worst-case scenario, the result could be that significant funds are spent, the project is incomplete, AND additional damage is done to the home. Homeowners policies do have exclusions for faulty or defective workmanship. The best prevention is research.

Don’t get me wrong; there are many good, diligent, talented, and qualified contractors out there. But the wolf in sheep’s clothing can hurt the consumer. Here’s a list of red flags that should make a homeowner’s hair stand up on the back of his/her neck when it’s necessary to hire a contractor.

1. The contractor doesn’t have a physical address on his estimate, bid, or card.
2. The contractor doesn’t have insurance or hold a license. WARNING: Words on a business card are not necessarily gospel. A legitimate contractor doesn’t mind if you ask for the name of his insurance agent and won’t hesitate to provide a certificate of insurance (dated timely). He’ll also give you the opportunity to check with a consumer agency such as the Better Business Bureau.
3. The contractor comes to your door without being called.
4. The contractor has requested a large down payment or asks for daily draws without doing a lot of work. This is a contractor who’s not trusted by a supplier or can’t make his employee payroll.
5. The contractor presses for an instant decision.
6. The contractor has been slow on providing a written quote. This isn’t necessarily indicative of bad workmanship, but it bears asking, “If it takes so long to get the bid, how long will the project take?”
7. The estimate is vague.
8. The contractor leads you into larger and larger commitments.
9. The contractor doesn’t give you references to contact.
10. Finally, listen to your common sense. If this is for an insurance claim, it always sounds great if a contractor promises to absorb your deductible, or “hide” additional work into the estimates so the unwitting adjuster pays for it. But what does that say about the contractor’s ethics, and how does that type of practice affect YOUR job? Will he do shoddy work and cover it with fancy wrapping? Will he bring other unscrupulous workers into your home with little regard to your safety and security?

And finally, surf the Internet. Angie’s List, Yahoo Homes, Motley Fool can all provide excellent suggestions. A little up-front preparation can avoid a major headache.  Carney Insurance Services also works with many contractors and would be happy to provide a referral for your needs. Contact Us

This blog was written by Julie Schocker, regional claims representative in Iowa. Julie has been with West Bend for 22 years.

photo courtesy of West Bend

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