Educational Consumer Tips
Author: Better Business Bureau
Houston's unpredictable weather reminds us how important it is to know what to look for and what to avoid in a contractor. It’s not unusual after a severe storm for unreliable contractors to target consumers who need repairs. The results can be unfinished or shoddy work. The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston offers the following advice to help you reduce the chances of problems by choosing repair contractors carefully.
Get more than one bid. It's a good idea to get two or three bids, and compare materials, service, and guarantee, not just price.
Know the company you're dealing with. Ask for – and check out – customer references. Check out any business with the BBB at www.bbbhouston.org. A BBB Business Review on a business lists basic information as well as the BBB rating, which ranges from A+ to F. The BBB rating is based on sixteen elements, including whether there have been customer complaints and if so, whether complaints are resolved. In addition, businesses that meet BBB accreditation standards are shown as BBB Accredited Businesses.
Be alert for unreliable contractors who may pour in after the storm. Some contractors who follow storms may charge high prices for shoddy work, or leave jobs unfinished. Look for these red flags: Be cautious of contractors who solicit business door-to-door with vague information; have no local physical address or phone; or use scare tactics ("That chimney's about to fall") or high pressure ("This price is good today only").
Read and understand the contract and guarantee. The contract should include a written description of the work to be done, and the price of labor and materials. If the company makes any verbal promises (such as "We'll take away the cut tree limbs"), make sure they are in writing. The guarantee should describe what's covered by the guarantee, for how long, and what the company will do to honor the guarantee.
Ensure the company is insured. Ask for proof of liability and worker’s compensation insurance. To protect yourself even further, ask to be listed on the policy as an additional insured. An owner of a locally accredited roofing company says that he routinely does this for his customers. Companies that balk at such a request don’t need your business.
Avoid companies who say you won’t have to pay your deductible. Doing so, constitutes insurance fraud. Not only is it illegal, but we often see that companies who engage in this practice are also the ones that get the most complaints and are most likely to suddenly go out of business – meaning that your warranty could become worthless.
Put down as little money as possible. The less you can put down, the better. We’ve seen some repair contractors take upfront deposits and disappear. It’s ideal to pay in stages, but do so until some work has been completed to your satisfaction.
Don't sign a completion agreement until all the work is done to your satisfaction. Don't fall for high pressure or promises to return and take care of final details. It may be difficult to get the company to return once the job is paid for and signed off.
Try BBB’s “Request a Quote” service. Ask for bids on the service you need from BBB Accredited Businesses. Start at www.bbbhouston.org. In the section “BBB For Consumers”, click on “Request a Quote from BBB Accredited Businesses.”
Weather is unpredictable. The next big storm could be lurking just around the corner. Hold on to this article and you’ll have a handy reference for a rainy day.