The warm weather is here, and home repair and renovation projects are in season. Choosing the right contractor for your project is a job of its own. The City of Chicago is offering consumers smart tips on how to choose the right contractor and how to detect red flags to avoid getting scammed by a rip off contractor.
One of the top consumer complaints around the country are complaints about home repair contractors or projects gone bad. The vast majority of contractors provide good service, but it never hurts to take advice from the experts to make sure you have a positive experience.
Here are 6 important things to know when planning a home repair or renovation project:
1. Plan your Project: Set a budget for your project and a clear idea of what you want done. Be prepared to describe what you want to a contractor. Have a vision and be prepared to communicate it; you can do this by showing photos. Keep all of the details in mind when considering what may be involved.
2. Shop Around for a Contractor: When you’re working on any project, get bids from at least three different contractors and talk to them face to face. Recommendations should come from family and friends that were satisfied with the work they received. You can also check out contractors that are working on jobs in your area and ask the homeowner if they are happy with the work. Beware of door to door salesmen, telemarketers or contractors who can only be contacted by cell phones or answering services and are not listed in the yellow pages.
3. Don’t just ask for references…CHECK References! Once you decide on a contractor, ask for at least 3 references of previously completed projects. Call the clients and ask them if they would recommend this contractor or use this contractor again. Ask if they are satisfied with the work that was performed. Also, ask if they were on time with completion of the project and stayed within the budget. Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website.
4. Licensing and Insurance: Make sure your contractor is licensed. Ask for the license number and check to see if he has any complaints filed against him with the City of Chicago. If the contractor is in the City of Chicago or doing business in the City of Chicago a Home Repair License or General Contractor license is needed.
To verify whether a contractor is licensed, you can check online or call BACP at 312.74GOBIZ. You can also check a list of Home Repair companies that have a disciplinary history.
The Chicago Department of Buildings also provides an online list of Licensed General Contractors. A general contractor can hire subcontractors, such as a plumber or electrician, to perform some aspects of the work. A contractor who has a home repair license can perform work himself but cannot hire others.
Contractors should always be insured, but taking somebody’s word for it can be risky. Ask your contractor for the name of the insurance carrier; call them and ask for a statement of coverage
5. Be Smart About The Contract: Beware of the contractor who tells you “I know what you want, we don’t need to write it down, we trust each other.” If the contract is signed in your home, you have 3 business days to cancel the contract and receive a refund. Before signing any contract, be sure it includes every detail of what will be done. If you want specific services or brand name materials, make sure it is outlined in writing. Never sign a contract that contains blank or unfilled spaces. Any changes to the contract should be put in writing and signed by both parties. The names and addresses of any subcontractors should also be included in the contract.
6. Payments: Spread the payments over the duration of the job and tie them to job performance and/or progress. Only give a small deposit of the job’s total cost.
Beware of contractors that only accept cash payments, or suggests you borrow money from a lender that he refers you to. Beware of statements like, “I can only get you this price today.” A professional contractor will offer quality and value without pressuring a customer.
Consumers should always file complaints online or by calling 311.