Whether you’re getting ready to add on a new room to one of your properties or need a simple electrical job completed, it’s important that you know exactly who you’re hiring. Thankfully, bad contractors are easy to spot. They’re their own worst enemies and all seem to exhibit the same warning signs. Let’s take a look at five telltale sings you’re getting ready to hire the wrong contractor for the job.
1. Refusal to Put Anything in Writing
The number one telltale sign of a dishonest contractor is the unwillingness to put work in writing. They frequently say things like “We don’t need a contract, we both know we’re on the same page” or “Contracts just make things more complicated, don’t you want to get this done as soon as possible?” Any time you hear statements like these, run the other direction.
Contracts serve as protection for both you and the contractor – that’s why they exist. They clearly explain what obligations there are and that they must be fulfilled in order for payment to be made. By evading a written contract, some contractors attempt to squeeze more money out of their clients on the backend of the project.
2. Trying to Convince You to Pull Your Own Permits
Another statement you’ll hear from bad contractors is “We don’t need permits for this project, they’re just another way for the county to steal money from us.” Again – now would be a good time to say sayonara, ciao, or whatever word you want to use for goodbye!
Permits are required, by law, for any significant construction project that takes place on your property. The purpose is to allow local building officials to occasionally visit your property to confirm safety codes are being met. Sometimes, however, a contractor will attempt to skirt the issue by (a) telling you that a permit is unnecessary, or (b) encouraging you to pull your own homeowner’s permit.
This second option often sounds enticing and legal, but the contractor is essentially asking you to lie to the authorities (because you’re claiming the job is a DIY project). Furthermore, they are pushing all of the burden and responsibility for inspections onto your shoulders. In other words, you (not the contractor) will have to answer to the inspector.
3. Rarely Showing Up at the Job Site
Bad contractors tend to avoid showing up at their job sites at all costs. This is likely due to the fact that they don’t want to deal with disgruntled clients face-to-face. It’s also because they frequently subcontract their work out to other people, in order to seemingly remove themselves from the situation.
4. Trying to Override Your Plans
It’s a contractor’s job to complete your project according to your preferences and stipulations. While they are welcome to offer suggestions and give you a qualified opinion, it’s ultimately your choice how you want to proceed. Bad contractors will try to override your plans, though.
They may start a project by agreeing with all of your requests, but along the way, they’ll make tweaks and adjustments that benefit them. They typically do this to save time and money. Sometimes they won’t even tell you they’re doing it, while other times they’ll notify you that one of your requests wasn’t “possible” and that they made an executive decision to pursue another route. It’s often difficult to disprove, but it’s just another reason to find an honest contractor.
5. No Insurance, License, or Reviews
One of the easiest ways to verify whether or not you’re speaking with a reputable contractor is to ask for their credentials. They should easily be able to present things like licenses, registration, proof of insurance, and other documentation. You should also take the time to search their name and company online for client reviews, testimonials, and ratings. Sites like Angie’s List are great for doing just this. If they can’t provide documentation, or reviews are less than satisfactory, don’t waste your time.
Common Contracting Scams
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to spot bad contractors. In these cases, property owners are often subjected to the following popular scams:
• Skyrocketing costs after ‘unforeseen problems.’ While a contractor gives you a project estimate of say $5,000, they may come back to you after a couple weeks and try to claim they ran into unforeseen problems and need an additional $2,000 to keep moving forward. The fees may be genuine, but they likely accounted for the fees earlier and sent you a lower bid in order to win the job.
• Asking you to pay up front. According to the Better Business Bureau, a contractor asking for money up front is the most commonly reported scam. In this ruse, the contractor claims that they need a certain percentage of the payment up front in order to rent equipment or buy supplies. However, after getting the money, they end up running off or taking their sweet time – knowing they’ve already been paid.
• Taking the contractor’s word for it. Smooth talking contractors often try to hide things in the contract. They’ll verbally agree to one thing, while sliding in extra caveats and details in the written agreement. They then tell you that the contract is just a formality and there’s no reason to carefully review it. You end up signing something you didn’t know you were signing and you’re at the mercy of the contractor.
By heeding the advice mentioned above and not working with dishonest contractors, you can avoid getting caught up in these scams. However, if you ever find yourself in one of these situations and suspect you’ve been illegally or inappropriately treated, don’t be afraid to threaten and even pursue legal action. The verbal threat can often be enough to scare a contractor into doing the right thing.
Green Residential Property Management
At Green Residential, we’ve been involved in property management long enough that we know the difference between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys.’ Any time we set up jobs with contractors, we keep these warning signs in mind and choose only to work with licensed, certified, and highly-reputable professionals.
If you’re a landlord or property owner looking to take a more hands-off approach, yet don’t want to compromise the integrity of your tenant relationships, we can help. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to discuss our professional property management services and how we can maximize financial returns, while minimizing your time investment.