CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Homeowners looking to improve or remodel their homes should be on higher alert during the Spring season, according to Charlotte Better Business Bureau. The agency said unreliable contractors tend to spike during the season when people make home improvement to-do lists.
Many people rush into getting projects finished quicker without doing their homework, BBB President Tom Bartholomy told WBTV.
Last year, the agency received 6000 complaints against contractors, Bartholomy said. Many of the complaints, 88% were resolved with the homeowner and contractor reaching an agreement.
The most common complaint was for poor workmanship, in addition to contractors taking money up front and not returning to finish a job. Bartholomy said contractors who ask for more than 20% of the job as a downpayment up front should be a red flag for homeowners. "You're not their bank, you're their customer; don't act like their bank," he stressed, "if they can't get a business loan, that's not your problem. There are other contractors out there that aren't going to require more than 20% down."
Bartholomy said it's easy for people to come across unreliable contractors because mostly anyone can become a contractor in North Carolina. If a person has tools, a business card and a phone and the job they're looking to complete is less than $30,000, the person does not need a contracting license.
To maker sure people get projects done by someone reliable, Bartholomy suggests instead of asking for references on paper, to ask the contractor for the phone numbers and address of the previous 3 jobs a contractor has completed. That way, a homeowner can physically inspect the work themselves.
He also recommends asking for a contract before any work is done. The contract should have specific dates noting when each part of the job should be done. Also, consider paying by credit card or check. Bartholomy said if someone is asked to pay in full up front or all in cash, chances are the contractor may not have the homeowner's best interest in mind.
Homeowners can also check the BBB Website to see if a contractor has any complaints against them. The worst the a contractor can do, he said, is to ignore complaints by past customers. Ignoring complaints is an easy way for a contractor to get an "F" rating. "It used to be pre-internet, that if you had a dissatisfied customer, they would tell 14 other people. Now if you have a dissatisfied customer, they're telling 14,000 other people because people go on the internet, blogs and websites posting as much negative information as they can about your company and it's suicide for any business not to take care of their customer."
Bartholomy said, not only should homeowners check for complaints, but also check to see if a contractor has a criminal history. The BBB said the people with the largest number of complaints often have criminal records and also change their name or the name of their business.