With home improvement fraud and scams on the rise in the United States, homeowners must take the necessary precautions to avoid becoming victims of "fly by night contractors." For those who still own their properties after seeing the rise in foreclosures across this nation, it is incumbent on you the homeowner to do the following before you go in search of a Home Improvement Contractor.
Home Improvement Contractors (HIC) in most jurisdictions in the United States is regulated by City, State or County Agencies. For example, in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk County in New York, the Department of Consumer Affairs regulates the operations of Home Improvement Contractors and Home Improvement Salesmen (HIS). These are representatives or sales persons who negotiate contracts on behalf of Home Improvement Contractors (HIC).
There are basically three (3) stages of the home improvement process, namely: The Negotiation Stage; The Contract Stage and The Work In Progress and Completion Stage. In the Negotiation Stage, a homeowner should perform a "due diligence" on prospective Home Improvement Contractors and Home Improvement Salesmen, hereinafter referred to as HIC and HIS respectively. This is where you research and check to see if the HIC is a bona fide and legitimate operator. You start by calling the Agency that regulates HIC and HIS in your area. Ask HIC and HIS for proof of licenses, workmen compensation, general liability insurance, performance bonds, and references.
You should also check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with respect to the reputation of such businesses. Check to see any history of complaints and how they were expedited. Make sure that the HIC / HIS has a physical business address, business telephone, fax, email address, website, etc. Beware of "fly by night contractors" that operate out of their trucks, vans, SUV. It is very important also for you the homeowners to get at least 3-5 free written estimates from HIC and HIS. Some HIC / HIS may charge a reasonable fee depending on the size of the job estimate. For example, those estimates that understands blue prints specifications, plans, zoning, etc. However, you should try and negotiate a free written estimate that express state in black and white prices, brand names, colors, designs, start date, completion date, etc. Keep in mind that "word of mouth" is the best recommendation. Get references from HIC / HIS and invest the time to check the jobs and speak to the homeowners directly. Ask questions!
In the Contract Stage, before you sign or execute a contract, make sure that you obtain copies of HIC / HIS licenses, workmen compensation, general liability insurance, performance bond (applicable for large projects), and inquire whether the HIC participates in a Home Improvement Trust Fund. This is a trust fund that the Agency requires HIC to pay into so as to protect homeowners from HIC who takes off before a job is completed. You are also required to make sure that all brand names, styles, colors, any oral promises (some high powered HIC … Read More