CROMWELL -- As the weather warms up, consumers start planning home repair and renovation projects, and a little research can go a long way towards getting the job done properly by a qualified contractor, according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau.
Consumers across the country file complaints about substandard work, unethical business practices and damage to property caused by unethical home improvement contractors.
“The majority of Connecticut contractors are ethical and their customers are pleased with the final product,” according to Connecticut BBB spokesman Howard Schwartz. “Consumers can protect themselves from rogue and incompetent builders by following some time-honored procedures.”
Horror stories include contractors who take a deposit and disappear, or start work and let a project drag on for months after the expected completion date. Some of the problematic operators come from out of state, may not be licensed, registered, insured or sufficiently competent to do the work properly.
If a project is botched, a legitimate contractor may be reluctant to fix or complete someone else’s work because there may be hidden problems, and they don’t want to be liable if they inadvertently damage property due to shoddy workmanship by an unreliable contractor.
It is essential to obtain multiple estimates before signing a contract. When you get multiple in-house bids, you can learn a great deal about the proposed project, such as what type of work is needed, the quality of the building materials, how long the job may take and the total cost. The details may vary from one bid to another but if one estimate is substantially lower than the others, you should ask why.
BBB has some tips to help you find the best business to do the job and avoid problems with unethical contractors:
Check bbb.org - BBB’s business profiles can tell you how long the contractor has been in business, as well as provide contact information, verified customer reviews, complaint details and how the business responded.
Be wary of certain sales pitches - Don’t be lured into signing a contract if someone offers you a ‘today only’ special. That is a sales tactic designed to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit, without giving you the opportunity to do your research.
Obtain references from recent customers - Home renovations are big ticket items, so you may want to speak with other property owners who had work done recently, and ask what they did or did not like about a particular contractor.
Get everything in writing - All verbal promises should be contained in the contract, as well as a detailed description of the work, the cost of materials and start and completion dates. Contracts also should include specifics about the deposit and payment schedule and guarantees for the quality of work and materials.
The contract should specify required permits - Renovation work often requires permits from the town or municipality. The business should commit itself to obtaining those permits as part of the job. If they’d rather not go for permits, it might be a warning sign that they may have a poor reputation at city hall.
Compare apples to apples – Choosing a prospective contractor is simpler if you ask for quotes based on the number of hours needed and the same quality of materials.
Avoid Putting down a large deposit - A typical payment schedule should follow the “Rule of Thirds.” The first payment is given when signing the contract and helps pay for materials, the second payment when work begins, and the final payment when the job is finished and you are satisfied with the quality of work. Ask the builder to walk you through the work to explain what has been done.