How to protect yourself against dodgy contractors

renovateThe renovation or remodeling of your home can be a financially and even emotionally stressful time for your family. Noise and building rubble will become your constant companion and inevitably, dust will take its place on the throne of, well basically everything. But there are steps that you can take to maintain some semblance of sanity during this time. One of those involves the people that you bring in to do the work for you. These contractors can literally make or break the renovations. Unfortunately, not all ‘hired hands’ are cut from an honest cloth and, so we’ve devised a list of ways to deal with crooked contractors.

  1. Don’t rush anything

Unless you’re desperate to skip the country, there’s no reason to rush anything. Typically, the best contractors get business from word of mouth. Get input from friends and family that have had renovations done – ask their opinions. Go online and do your research. Seek legal insurance advice – You may be pleasantly surprised by who your broker leads you to. Phone around and ask for written quotes to do price comparisons. Remember, this will be a fairly sizeable investment.

  1. Don’t pay everything upfront

This is asking to get burned. Most trustworthy contractors will ask for a deposit – it’s standard industry procedure. But asking for overly large sums up front should raise some serious red flags. Instead, sit down with your contractor and work out a schedule (usually the contractors will come to you with a basic outline already). This way, each payment is based upon the completion of the various stages of the project. For example, once the rough-in plumbing is completed, when the framing is done, interior walls, stage by stage. If this is worked out in a schedule and you are asked for a payment you can respond with a polite: ‘According to our contract the next payment is due when X is done. Once I’m satisfied that it’s complete, I will be happy to pay you.’

  1. Verify their credentials

It may sound like common sense, but it’s estimated that at least a third of homeowners don’t verify the licenses or records of the contractors they hire. Pure madness. Bogus contractors may go through the trouble of creating fake documents to try and legitimise themselves. To counter this, ask for a valid insurance certificate from them and ensure that this is sent directly from the insurance company and is up-to-date. If the contractor wants you to get all the construction permits, it could be a sign that they aren’t licensed and are trying to avoid getting caught. This is not always the case, but be aware. If all else fails, then there’s nothing a little Googling cannot uncover.

  1. Ensure a paper trail

Most importantly, get everything in writing. And we do mean everything. This includes all liaison between you and your contractor, any cost estimates (including all labour and materials), a production schedule with a project start date, and a copy of all warranties. This is the easiest way to protect yourself, should things go sour further down the line.

Remember, a crooked contractor doesn’t want to do any work. They’d prefer to take your money for nothing. But anyone who is aware that you’re clued up will be far less inclined to play games and may even decide that you just aren’t worth it.