Seeing the big mess that was supposed to be his new deck, Barry was upset.
The contractor had been a good salesman but not a good carpenter. Barry could sue this company, but he knew it would be difficult. Many makeshift contractors are judgment-proof and hard to find.
The many knowledgeable and conscientious contractors working in West Virginia are valued for their skills, but the bad apples aren’t interested in seeing your job go as planned. They are only interested in taking your money.
Avoiding hiring a bad contractor would have been the best thing for Barry to do. Word of mouth recommendations for recent work is one of the most important aspects of such a project. Barry was in a hurry and the entrepreneur said all the right things.
As he knew now, if others had had bad experiences, it was likely that he had too. He regretted not asking others at church, social events and even at the grocery store which contractors were good and which ones to avoid, because this information could have saved him money, damage and heartaches.
Also, asking the contractor for references and if he could see the finished work would have helped. Barry should have taken the time to see for himself what the contractor can do and ask questions. Photos of jobs or pages on a website can be misleading (or even someone else’s job).
Barry may have had to wait longer for a top notch contractor to start working, but it probably would have been on the first try.
Beware that small jobs are often not a priority for busy contractors, making them very fertile ground for bad contractors. Contractors generally make a bigger profit on bigger jobs; the scope of the work can make it more difficult to find a quality contractor. For this reason, many unscrupulous contractors focus on smaller, less popular projects.
Those who deal with repair or renovation work as handymen are generally not licensed. When discussing a job with a contractor, also ask for their liability and workers’ compensation insurance certificates (if they have other people working for them). If they don’t have them, ask why. These coverages are protections against things going wrong and can protect you, the consumer, from major lawsuits over liability issues and hassles.
The contract drawn up and signed by both parties is decisive for the success of the project. Barry didn’t have one. If a simple verbal contract is suggested to speed things up and it is an expensive job, insist on getting a written contract before work begins or materials are purchased.
Be sure to check all the terms of the contract regarding the work to be done, especially any preliminary demolition or prep work, and even get someone else to help you interpret the terms. Often the owner assumes something is going to be done, but the contractor hasn’t agreed. Prevention is better than cure, because as Barry now knows, it could be your money that could be unnecessarily wasted and your problem expensive to clean up.
If you are asked to make an advance payment for the materials, that tells you a lot about the contractor. Many reputable contractors will give you a list of what you need and ask you to order the materials from the supplier of your choice. You know what you get that way. Others include the materials in the invoice as they come because they can buy them on their credit account with the supplier.
Focus on quality materials used for your work. Don’t let poor quality items shorten the life of repairs or additions. Barry also missed this. He was especially concerned about the low price the contractor had promised and was pleased with how quickly he could start work.
Inspect the work as it is done or get help from someone experienced in construction. To ask questions. Don’t assume that everything is done correctly.
Stick to the plan. If the entrepreneur says, “While I’m here, I could do x, y, and z,” that could be expensive. Do not approve extra work until you have seen the quality of the contractor’s work and without consulting someone who knows the need for the extras.
When payment is discussed, make it clear that you will not pay the final amount until all work is completed and as agreed. In fact, this term should be included in the contract. Don’t be forced to pay early like Barry was.
If things didn’t go to plan and you can’t locate the contractor or they won’t return, you may consider contacting your county attorney to file a criminal complaint or file a fraud complaint. consumer rights with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357. Also, as hard as it was to face these facts, Barry realized that he honestly couldn’t afford to hire a good contractor using quality materials at this point in his life. Instead, he was now seriously thinking about finding a smaller place very soon with fewer responsibilities and expenses. It would save money in the process and also reduce his worries.
If you are having trouble with a contractor or other legal issues and you are a West Virginia resident age 60 or older, please feel free to call West Virginia Main Legal Aid at 800-229 -5068 to speak to a lawyer for free.