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Contractor Hell /
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Count your fingers. Count your
blessings and for Pete’s sake – Count our money. My
mom’s house sprang a small leak last summer which
expanded into a cross between a Marx Brother’s movie and
a modern version of Dante’s Inferno.
First, no one could find just what was leaking, then the
most logical answer by the most competent-looking
plumber turned out to be neither on both counts.
While they were fixing the wrong pipes, they loosened
the top of the water heater and flooded the house. Add
non-responsive insurance agents, slick, slow and
soon-invisible contractors, mirror mishaps and financial
chicanery and you have Mom’s Fall and Winter.
Now, when you realize this is happening to a smart woman
with involved family members, the landscape of past and
present caregivers who are open prey to this horror is
truly frightening. Please understand that I am not
suggesting the vast majority of home improvement
specialists fall within this grouping. They do not. We
just got lucky.
Hard Learned Lessons.
Allow me to impart some hopefully helpful hints for
those of you with home repair woes:
Check ‘em out! Call the Better Business Bureau and our
state to check on any complaints against their license.
Talk to previous clients.
Make sure they have a license. Many times, even if there
is a license associated with the business, you never
deal directly with the license holder. Make sure that
the person is aware you will refer them to the proper
authorities, if necessary.
Bid! Bid! Bid! Prices, as well as qualifications, will
Insist on a time and payment schedule, with penalties
for missed scheduled commitments and rewards for beating
the schedule with competent work.
Do not give anyone cash. Never. Not for any reason. Get
receipts and when the work is done-get warrantees.
Do not pay in advance. If you are asked to pay too much
before the work is done –worry.
Watch the paperwork. Retotal figures. Ask questions.
Demand proof. Demand receipts. It is your money, after
Make sure you get “Release of Liens” from all
subcontractors. If you do not-and the contractor fails
to pay them-you are liable.
“If in doubt, don’t lay it out!”. Get good advice from
your attorney if you feel that someone may be taking
advantage of you.
Trust yourself. Don’t settle for answers that don’t ring
Now that you’ve passed Contractor 101, may you never
have to take the final exam.