Search information online and check whether complaints have been ;led with your state or local consumer a;airs agency or license board. Go to www.
usa.gov/directory/stateconsumer for a list of state and
local consumer agencies.
Check licensing, insurance and bonding.
;ese are important forms of protection for you as
a consumer. Bonding protects you if the contractor
doesn’t complete a job, doesn’t pay for permits or
fails to meet other ;nancial obligations. Ask a contractor for a bond number and certi;cation number, then verify it through the issuing surety
company. Bonding requirements vary depending
on state and municipality.
Verify insurance by asking to see a certi;cate of
insurance. Call the insurance company that issued
the certi;cate to verify that the policy is current and
has the right coverage for your project.
Find out more information about what licensing is required where you live through your state
licensing board, local building department or consumer protection agency. Make sure a contractor’s
license is current.
Check permits. A reputable contractor will get
necessary permits before starting work on a project.
Check your local building or planning department
for information on what permits are required and
verify the permits a contractor says he or she holds.
Put terms in writing. A contractor will likely
have a standard contract he or she presents to you.
Make sure the contract includes a start and completion date, detailed payment schedule and detailed
description of the scope of the work. It should also
include an obligation for the contractor to get any
necessary permits, a list of materials being used,
information about warranties covering materials
and workmanship, and how changes to the original
contract will be handled.
Protect your pocketbook. Never pay in
cash. Be leery of companies requesting what seems
to be an unreasonably large down payment for a
job. Make sure payments made to the contractor
are contingent upon dates of completion. Don’t
make the ;nal payment or sign an a;davit of ;nal
release until the job is done. Ask the contractor for
a lien release or lien waiver, as laws in your state
might allow the contractor to ;le a lien against your
home to satisfy unpaid bills.
Keep records and photos. Keep copies of your
contract, change orders and correspondence, and a
record of payments made. Take photos of the job
from beginning to middle to end. You may need
them if problems arise with your project during or
a;er construction. C
David Horowitz is
a leading consumer
Horowitz is the
CEO of Fight Back!
and co-founder of
Email David and
Amanda at info@
Fight Back TIPS FROM
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Just log on to
www.fightback.com or email
firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions and answers of the greatest interest to Costco members will be used in this column (with the permission of the contributor) and
will be posted on
www.fightback.com. © 2014 AMANDA HOROWITZ MEDIA, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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IF YOU OWN a home, at some point you will likely
need to hire a contractor for minor or major
improvements or repairs. ;ere are two main types
of contractors you would hire: general contractors
and specialty contractors. A general contractor oversees the entirety of a project and hires subcontractors
who perform a specialized type of labor, such as
plumbing or electrical work.
Although there are many ethical, honest general
contractors, you may hear horror stories of contractors who have ripped o; innocent homeowners,
scammed victims of natural disasters or the elderly,
underbid jobs purposely and/or disappeared with
deposits and le; incomplete work behind. How can
you make sure you don’t get ripped o;? Following
these general tips will help.
Get referrals and bids. Ask friends and family members you trust for referrals. You may also
contact your local Home Builders Association.
For larger projects, such as home additions,
remodeling or renovations, get a minimum of three
written bids for the work that needs to be accomplished. Provide each contractor with an identical
packet of information on your project so that you
have a basis for comparison. Bids should include an
itemized list of ;xed costs for labor and materials. A
contractor could include a fee for the bid itself.
Do research before hiring. Ask to speak
with past clients and ;nd out if they were satis;ed.
Make sure their projects were similar to yours. Ask
if the contractor was easy to communicate and work
with, if there were any unexpected costs, if workers
showed up on time and properly cleaned up, and if
the work was done well and to speci;cations.
Ask to visit current jobs in progress to get a better feel for a contractor’s work ethics and standards.
Don’t be a victim of
A REPUTABLE contractor
• Knock on your door and
solicit your business
• Avoid using a contract
• Pressure you to make
• Only accept payments
upfront or payments
• Ask you to get
• Offer you a lifetime
warranty or lifetime
guarantee on work
If a contractor does any
of the above, beware. Don’t
be a victim to a home-
improvement scam. C
from a home-improvement