Contractor Hell


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: 

  1. Check ‘em out! Call the Better Business Bureau and our state to check on any complaints against their license. Talk to previous clients.

  2. 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.

  3. Bid! Bid! Bid! Prices, as well as qualifications, will vary. GREATLY!

  4. Insist on a time and payment schedule, with penalties for missed scheduled commitments and rewards for beating the schedule with competent work.

  5. Do not give anyone cash. Never. Not for any reason. Get receipts and when the work is done-get warrantees.

  6. Do not pay in advance.If you are asked to pay too much before the work is done –worry.

  7. Watch the paperwork. Retotal figures. Ask questions. Demand proof. Demand receipts. It is your money, after all.

  8. Make sure you get “Release of Liens” from all subcontractors. If you do not-and the contractor fails to pay them-you are liable.

  9.  “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.

  10. Trust yourself. Don’t settle for answers that don’t ring true.

Now that you’ve passed Contractor 101, may you never have to take the final exam.


Subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter