While home improvement projects tend to be among the most significant investments many consumers will make all year, it’s important to do the proper research before hiring a contractor. It’s also equally important to know what’s required of home improvement companies.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to anyone attending a home show or planning to hire a home improvement contractor:
• Familiarize yourself with the show’s layout. Visit the show’s website in advance and locate appealing vendors. Check for discounts and coupons being offered and research vendors at www.bbb.org. Look for the seal of BBB accreditation being displayed in booths of BBB Accredited Businesses, as these companies meet and uphold BBB Standards.
• Be prepared. Develop a list of questions for potential contractors so you don’t overlook something, as it is easy to become distracted at a show. Recognize and keep to your budget while maintaining clear goals to avoid being pressured into making an impulse commitment on the spot.
• Comparison shop. Collect information, marketing materials and ask questions. Engage with booth owners, obtain specifics on pricing and services and have a clear understanding of company policies and warranties.
• Confirm licensing. Before hiring a contractor, check to see that they are properly registered with the appropriate state licensing board and have up-to-date insurance covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability.
• Avoid paying in full. BBB recommends limiting a deposit to no more than one-third of the total cost of the project and to also set up a schedule of payments based on the job’s overall progress. Get all details of the project in writing in the form of a contract and request a receipt that properly accounts for any paid amounts.
• Request receipts. Make sure you get a receipt from the contractor that properly accounts for any amounts you have paid. Once the job is completed and you have paid for everything, request a receipt marked “paid in full.” Never make final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work done and know that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
• Understand your contract. Before signing a contract, read over it in its entirety. Do not sign if there are any blank lines or if there are any statements you don’t entirely understand. The law requires that a copy of the contract be given to you at the time of signing, so be sure to request one if you are not initially provided with it. Keep a copy of the contract after the job is completed in case there is an issue.
• Recognize your rights. Under the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off Rule, contracts for goods or services in excess of $130 that are entered into at a seller’s temporary location, can be canceled within three business days following the date of the contract. By law, the seller must tell you about your right to cancel at the time of sale. The seller also must give you two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and one to send if you decide to cancel).