Spot the Fraud: Signs You Need to Fire Your Contractor ASAP

Contractors don’t exactly have the best reputation. Search “contractor scams” and you’ll turn up loads of articles enumerating the latest contractor ploys. Nightmare contractor stories are about as numerous as the stars. For a business that deals with something so important—your home—home repairs sure do attract some shady characters.

There are plenty of reasons why a relationship with a contractor goes south. Some of it you can probably chalk up to unrealistic expectations—some homeowners want their builder to bring them the world on a platter. And sometimes it’s just a matter of juggling too much. Very few contractors are able to hire administrative employees, and so they end up doing most of the scheduling and paperwork themselves while trying to get your kitchen remodel done.

And then there are the people who see a trusting and vulnerable homeowner with little-to-no knowledge about their home’s inner workings, and think, cha-ching! It’s this last category we’re here to discuss today, specifically how to sniff one out and boot them from your life before they turn your dream home into a nightmare. Here are six surefire signs that you need to cut ties with your contractor—and cut your losses while you still can.

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They Can’t Show You Any Credentials

Here’s where it pays to do a little detective work right off the bat. In many states, skilled work, like the jobs performed by electricians and plumbers, must be completed by a licensed contractor. So don’t be afraid to ask to see a copy of your contractor’s license—a pro won’t be offended. Also ask to review their proof of insurance and a list of references, too. If your contractor gets cagey or can’t produce credentials like these, set them loose. They may not be as much of a “pro” as they say they are.

They Want You to Pay for the Whole Project Up Front

If your contractor hands you a bill before they get started, don’t panic! It’s customary for pros to ask for a portion of their initial quote up front—but typically, it’s no more than 30 to 50% of the quote. However, what they should not do is ask you to fork up the entire estimate right on the spot. It makes it way too easy for crooked contractors to cut and run, and anyone worth their salt knows better than to ask for 100%. That’s a definite red flag right there.

You Can Never Get Them on the Phone

Having trouble reaching your contractor to get a project started? It may be time to say sayonara. No one can answer the phone every time it rings, of course, but your contractor should make an effort to get back to you promptly. If you feel like your contractor is ghosting you, it’s time to start looking for new candidates. After all, there are plenty of workers who will make you a top priority—or at least call you back!

They Break Your Contract

This one is tricky, since you don’t want to go around accusing contractors willy nilly. A breached contract is a serious offense that often gets settled in court, so you’ll want to have your facts straight before you approach your contractor. You’ll want to have documented proof—photos, receipts and other records—showing that your contractor has broken your agreement. And first, you should have an open—but firm—conversation with your builder and air your issues. If your contractor makes no effort to remedy the problem, you may just need to get a lawyer involved.

Their Quote Comes In Way Below Other Bidders

A deal is a deal, except when it comes at the cost of quality, materials, or skill. You should always collect at least three separate bids for a home remodeling project. For one thing, it’s a great way to get a feel for the average price of this kind of work. But it will also give you a sense of your contractors’ trustworthiness, as well. If one of those bids seems way too low, it’s not necessarily a reason to bite. You get what you pay for, and with contractors, as often as not, a low bid is a sign that something is wrong. Maybe the contractor is using recalled materials, hiring less-than-skilled subcontractors or maybe they’re planning to do the work as quickly—and shoddily!—as possible, and then cut and run. Whatever the reason, you’ll probably wind up paying for it later, so it’s best to avoid these kinds of cutthroat quotes.

They Can’t Stick to a Schedule

Delays happen in the construction business. Estimates are off, materials need to be reordered, unpredictable weather pops up—it’s not uncommon for a job to take longer than expected. However, a contractor who keeps missing their deadlines—or doesn’t show up to work some days—is no one you want working on your home. Do yourself a favor and give them the boot. In the long run, your wallet will thank you!

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