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  • Writer's pictureSpencer Keife

8 Ways to Know You Hired the Wrong Contractor And What You Can Do

No one wants it to happen to them. They are ready to start a project at the house, wether it be a remodeling project, replacement of a water heater, or maybe just painting of a bedroom. Whichever project you may be looking to tackle in your home, there is always a chance that you can hire a contractor that isn't a good fit for you. Or even worse, an unethical contractor that doesn't tend to fallow the rules set forth for contractors to abide by. Now I will say this, 95% of contractors are not unethical. Most contractors do the best they can to give you the best service they can. It's up to you to decide which contractor best fits your needs as the homeowner.

Even though it is very unlikely you may hire the wrong contrqctor, I thought it would be helpful to show the things to lookout for for the other 5% of contractors out there and how to avoid getting stuck with an outcome you don't want. So, below I have outline the top 8 ways to know you may have hired the wrong contractor, or are about to hire the wrong contractor.

  1. They started the work, but haven’t been here for days: While this one isn't super severe in itself, it is definitely telling in terms of how important your project may be to the contractor. It may not be enough by itself to know for sure but it is definitely worth raising an eyebrow to. Where it becomes a problem is if you have a schedule in place with your contractor and it seems as if they aren't honoring the schedule you both had agreed on and set in place, This could mean that the contractor doesn't value your project as much as others they may have going on, or it could just be as simple as the contractor is spread to thin and can't keep up with the work load. Either way, it is important to address it with your contractor as soon as it becomes a problem. What to do if this happens to you: communicate with your contractor and make it know that you have noticed that they seem to not be prioritizing your job and that you'd like better communication. If the problem persists, you have the right to terminate your agreement with the contractor. Just be sure there isn't fine print on the contract between you(which there should be) that states anything along the line of, "if you terminate this agreement you forfeit your deposit."

  2. They’re hard to get in touch with: This one can at times go hand in hand with the point above. Please don't let it be confused with sending your contractor a message or two and they don't respond right away. It happens often where you send a text your contractor asking a question or maybe just wanting an update and you don't get a responseright away. This is common when contractors are in their busy season or just busy in general. Usually you'll get a response at the end of their day or the following morning. What you don't want and what to keep an eye out for is if you've send messaged repeatedly over a few days with no response and you start to worry that maybe you're being ignored. Communication is very important, especially with bigger projects and you as a homeowner deserve to be in the loop with your project. What to do if this happens to you: If you find yourself in this situation where you are messaging or calling your contractor over and over again with no response, make one final attempt via email stating just that. Say this will be your final attempt to contact them and if no response is received within 24 hours you will terminate the contract and find another contractor to complete the work. While I'm not a big fan of threats, there is a time and place for them and if your contractor is not communicating you have the right to find a contractor who will communicate with you.

  3. They say one thing and do another: This is more of an integrity issue and it's pretty easy to spot early on. Usually what happens is you will be communicating with your contractor asking about a particular task and they tell you what they are going to do to handle it. What happens next will determine what you do. They will either do what they said they were going to do the way they said they were going to do it, or they will do what they said they were going to do in a roundabout way which might not be the best way to do it, or worse, they don't do what they said they were going to do at all and do something completely different than what you had asked for or had been told they were going to do. While the last two both aren't good, the last one is definitely what you don't want. What you can do if this happens to you: If you identify that your contractor isn't doing the work you asked for in the way that they described it, you have the right to ask them to do it over the right way. If they refuse, you have the ability to refuse final payment. This can be tricky though because if the contract you signed(hopefully) lays out the terms clearly and you have something to fall back on legally if it gets that far. Unfortunately if there is no signed contract or there are no clear terms on the contract, it is a much harder fight to get them to honor words spoken. Be sure you get a clear contract with clearly written terms and you have a full understanding of the work being completed.

  4. They keep asking for more money: This one is not entirely what you might expect. There is a big difference between a contractor wanting progress payments on a job and a contractor asking for more money because they underbid the job. No one likes it when they agree to the price of a project and then you are told after you agree to the work, the price then goes up however much. It's like when you sign up for a cellphone plan and they advertise it at $30/month and then you get the bill and it's doubled because of "fees". Your contractor has every right to set a payment schedule for the project and you can either agree to it or not. If you choose not to, the contractor may walk. However, if there are no payment terms and your contractor returns every other day or every week stating that they need more money because the job is costing more than expected, it's up to you to decide if you'll fall into the trap of never ending payment increases or tell the contractor that they need to honor the quoted price. One thing to keep in mind is that a trustworthy contractor, if they find that something is going to take more work and more money, will bring it to your attention and issue what is called a "change order" for your approval. Change orders are essentially just another contract stating that they found this additional problem while doing the work and that they need to fix it before they can proceed with the rest of the job. What you can do if this happens to you: The simplest way to ensure that this is handled as smoothly as possible is to honor the terms of the contract. Again, hopefully you signed one. Don't allow for the contractor to bully you into paying for something. We have seen it happen where the contractor states something like, "if you want this project done then I need more money." This is where you can refer back to the contract and politely show the. The price and payment schedule you agreed to and inform them that if they don't uphold their end of the contract then you can terminate the agreement or potentially take legal action if need be(it would have to be pretty bad to get this far).

  5. They want payment in cash: For smaller jobs this isn't super uncommon. The problem lies in if they are willing to take payment ONLY in cash. For bigger jobs this is a huge red flag. The reason being is because cash is much harder to trace and prove than a transaction took place. So if things got hairy, it turns into a "he said, she said" situation. Having receipts of transactions from either checks or card payments are better because they're time stamped by your bank when the funds are transferred which would help prove your case if a shady contractor tried to say you didn't pay them. What you can do if this happens to you: If a contractor only wants to be paid in cash, simply steer clear and don't do any business with that contractor. While cash may be okay for smaller transactions under $500 or so, having documentation is key to ensure a contractor doesn't get you for payment on the same job twice. You can always try to recommend a check payment which is essentially the same as but can be documented and if they still refuse then that's a big reason to avoid doing work with them.

  6. There’s no written contract: Probably the most important one on this list. Nowadays, it is incredibly common to have contractors of all types use what is called a CRM(Client or Customer Relation Manager) to do their invoicing and contract writing for them. Usually when you call a contractor and they provide with an estimate for work to be completed, the estimate you receive is through a CRM that has terms and conditions attached for you to review before accepting the proposed work. If a contractor does not have anything like thus, or they send you over something hand written or even worse, you agree to work verbally with no contract, there is no way to really hold up an agreement in court should something go wrong because there are no terms that agreed upon by both sides. The contract is your shield against any problems. While it isn't very common for contractors to try to do work without a contract in place, it does happen enough to present a problem to many homeowners across the country every year. What you can do if this happens to you: If a contractor wants begin work without a contract, your best course of action is to politely decline to proceed until a contract us drafted and signed. If the contractor refuses to create a contract, simply decline moving forward with any work and move onto working with a new contractor. If you have already started the work with no contract in place, and you're having trouble getting work to be completed or the contractor wants more money to keep working, things become quite a bit more tricky. Your best course of action is to simply stop all work with the contractor and consult an attorney if you feel it's necessary to be able to find a way to get any issues resolved.

  7. They are way cheaper than everyone else: Let's assume you are about to start a kitchen remodel and you choose to get 3 bids from contractors and they each give you a proposal with similar scopes. For the sake of easy math, let's assume two bids come in at a similar pricing of around $50,000 for the remodel and one comes in at $30,000. Many homeowners would not hesitate to jump at accepting the $30,000 bid. I mean, the scopes are basically the same but you're saving $20,000 so, why not? I think the better question to ask is, "Why is this contractor almost half as much as the other two?" A tactic we see more often than we would like is unethical contractors want to drop their price to a "no-brainer" level for the homeowner so that they accept the bid and then once the work begins, they then hit the homeowner with price increases and change orders at every corner to make up the loss on their end. While in the grand scheme of things it doesn't happen too often, it happens often enough to where homeowners are left thinking they need to shell out more money just to get the project to the finish line. What you can do if this happens to you: If you haven't accepted the proposal yet and you have just received one that is do,y cheaper than the others, the first step would be to ask the chesper contractor why they are so cheap to begin with. But sometimes they'll give you reasons that are very convincing and then you're in the trap of feeling like you need to pay for constant pricing changes. The best course of action is to trust your gut. Determine which contractor best suits your needs and choose them. Even if they are the most expensive, having a contractor you trust is more important than a cheap price.

  8. The materials that showed up aren’t what we talked about: This can happen pretty easily if you're not careful. Some contractors like to prey on people's ignorance and hope that they won't catch on to them buying lower quality materials to save money on the back end of the job. Things to be sure you keep an eye on are things like faucets, toilets, tile, finishes, mechanical components, etc. Building materials like lumber and drywall usually don't have massive quality differences in them where a contractor could cut corners. But on the more crucial things like what was mentioned above, it is important you have a say in what is bought so that you can have some control over the quality of what is getting installed in your home. Ethical contractors will usually disclose the information for the materials they will provide up front or they will provide model numbers or other important distinguishing information so that you can easily identify the materials up front. For jobs like remodels and renovations, contractors will usually provide you with what's called an "allowance" for certain materials so that you have a price range for materials and be able to chose ones that fall within the pricing provided. What you can do if this happens to you: If you have already started the project and the materials that the contractor is providing aren't of the quality or type you discussed, it is important that you bring this up before they are installed so that it can be resolved in a timely manner. Often times, once the materials have been installed, it is very difficult to return them without restocking fees or other penalties from the supplier. If the work hasn't begun yet, you can simply request to suggest desired materials to your contractor and keep record of which ones you want and requested so that if the contractor intentionally chooses the wrong materials, you have documentation proving they chose to disregard your material choice. Documentation is a life saver in all aspects.

These 8 things are crucial to look out for when working with contractors. And while most contractors are honest and ethical, having your ducks in a row will ensure that you don't fall victim to an unethical one. I'm sure you noticed a common theme among most of the points listed and that us to have a dang contract! Contracts will guarantee that both parties uphold their end of the deal and if they choose not to, then legal action becomes much easier and recovering losses isn't so painful. At the end of the day, you have to do your due diligence to ensure you're protected when hiring a contractor. The most important thing to do when meeting with a contractor for your project is to trust your gut. If a contractor seems shady or dishonest, it's safer to just not hire them. It's rare that a dishonest contractor can make themselves appear as if they are in fact honest. Hopefully, if you are reading this article, things aren't too far gone for you and you're now debating legal battles. This article is intended to protect homeowners before they get into hot water with a shady contractor.

If you are in need of an honest, ethical, and trustworthy remodeling contractor in the Reno, Sparks, Incline Village or surrounding areas, our team of experts at Paramount Craftsman Services are here to take care of you and Bring Your Vision To Life. Visit our website to learn more about our process and how we can best help you by clicking here.


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