5 tips to avoid illegitimate contractors

5 tips to avoid illegitimate contractors

The tricks that unscrupulous contractors use are well-known within the remodeling industry, but not so well-known among consumers. The average homeowner undertakes a kitchen, bathroom or other remodeling project only once in a great while. The natural inexperience in dealing with contractors can leave one vulnerable to unethical practices.

Below are some tips to help you identify a legitimate contractor:

1. Track record

Established, reputable contractors that have served the local area for many years (and can prove it) offer peace of mind. By contrast, unscrupulous remodelers quickly come and go.

A reputable contractor will also be able to show a prospective client verifiable testimonials from satisfied homeowners. An inability to produce legitimate testimonials from past customers is a red flag.

2. Avoiding up-charges

Many an illegitimate contractor will under-bid to get the job. However, they don’t plan to take a loss. Their plan is often to make excuses for a bevy of up-charges once work is underway. Since deposits already paid are typically more than work already performed, a homeowner can quickly feel trapped by ensuing up-charges.

The bottom line — if a bid appears too good to be true, it typically is.

3. Contractor's license

A simple request to see a contractor’s license, or to investigate its existence with the state, can quickly separate the legitimate from the fly-by-night.

4. Workmen’s comp policies

A legitimate contractor will be able to demonstrate that they are carrying the workers' compensation insurance required by law. Workers' comp pays workers injured on the job while they recover. A contractor without the required workmen’s comp insurance is not only operating illegally, they are more unstable because they are often one serious injury away from being forced out of business.

5. Liability insurance

As a responsible property owner, you understand how vital liability insurance is. Without it, an accident on your premises can wipe out some or all of your assets. The same principle applies to contractors. It is imperative that they have adequate liability insurance to cover accidents, or even misdeeds, by their workers and sub-contractors. Uncovered, a contracting business is just one accident away from being wiped out. Should that happen in the middle of your remodeling project, you could be left with deposits lost and work sitting unfinished.

About this Angie's List Expert: Jessica Kienzl is the sales manager for B & R Construction, a design/build firm that has been providing home remodeling services in the Los Angeles area for over 20 years. B & R Construction is a full service home remodeling company specializes in kitchens, bathrooms, additions and new construction and works to improve homes in a healthy, eco-friendly way whenever possible.

As of June 28, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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Always ask contractors for proof of their general liability coverage, which helps in the event of an accident or damage. (Photo by Jennica Abrams)
Always ask contractors for proof of their general liability coverage, which helps in the event of an accident or damage. (Photo by Jennica Abrams)

If you're hiring someone to work on your house, you've got insurance concerns that must be addressed.

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