Hiring a roofer or a plumber or a deck builder can be tricky business. Hiring the wrong roofer or plumber or deck builder can cost you a lot more money than it should, not to mention the time it takes to right a wrong.
That’s why the Better Business Bureau exists, says Katie Carrol, an eight-year veteran and spokeswoman for the agency, which provides the public with FREE access to reports on local businesses.
“Our best service is a database of more than four million reports on companies all over the country,” Carrol says. All are rated according to a strict set of standards that include: the number of complaints received about a company, a company’s response time to those complaints, and the final resolution of complaints. Based on the total of 16 criteria, companies are rated anywhere from A+ to F.
Businesses pay to belong to the BBB, but the service rates many nonmember companies, too. And if a member company does not satisfactorily resolve complaints, their rating is lowered or membership is revoked, she adds. Nonmembers are just downgraded each time this happens.
It pays to check a company’s rating before hiring, Carrol says. “We got a call about this roofer that started a job and then never came back. We checked their rating and there it was: a big fat F.” If the consumer had checked with the BBB first, he probably would not have hired that roofer to begin with, she says.
Even if a business says it is a member of the BBB, check it out on the site. Every month, there’s a list of recent revocations (members that have been dropped).
BBB grades are not a guarantee of a business’ reliability or performance, and BBB recommends that consumers consider a business’ grade in addition to all other available information about the business. Often you can find additional information through the Federal Trade Commission. Or do an Internet search by typing in “name of business” and “fraud” or “scam.” Odds are you’ll find any major complaints.
No matter the business, do your homework, especially before spending a bundle. Here are some basic tips from the Better Business Bureau on how to avoid home repair problems. But this advice can be applied to a virtually any scenario.
Shop around. Get three to four estimates based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project. Check out references that are at least one year old. Remember, the lowest-priced business may not be the best.
Look for certification and insurance. Ask if the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Get the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage. Ask whether the business meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city.
Get everything in writing. Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure the business’ name, address, license number and phone number are included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, don’t sign a blank contract, and make sure you get a copy of the signed contract at the time of signature.
Remember the rule of thirds and follow it. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.
Laura Daily contributed to this report.
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