Stories of homeowners getting ripped off by contractors and home renovation companies are always on the news. We constantly hear stories about contractors who didn’t do what they said they would do, did terrible work or didn’t finish the job at all. If you’ve decided to leave your next major home improvement project to a professional contractor or reno company, make sure you follow these tips before anyone starts swinging a hammer.
1. Get it in writing
When you think you’ve found the right contractor to work on your home renovation project, make sure they write out all of the details of the project and go over it with you. A reputable renovation company will provide a written quote stating all the details of the project including materials, product, labour costs and any additional fees that might incur throughout the project.
Make sure they draw up a written contract detailing every step of the project including: the total cost, payment schedule or plan, start date and estimated completion date materials and products being used, as well as the services they plan on subcontracting. If they are using subcontractors, ask if they can provide proof of licensing, insurance, and references for the contractors they will be hiring for your project. You can also double check the contractors or companies they will be using on the RenovationFind directory.
2. Check for proper licensing
Make sure the contractor or company has a proper business license. You’d be surprised how many people do renovations without a valid license. Kijiji is loaded with these “renovators”. Don’t be afraid to ask to see the physical license, it is your legal right as a home owner. In addition to being legally allowed to conduct business (which is very important), licensed contractors will be more familiar with building code requirements and other legalities that could cost you more money in the end. Their license will also mean that they likely carry proper insurance including workers’ compensation and liability insurance, which leads us to our next point…
3. Check for insurance
Any reputable home improvement company will have valid insurance, if they don’t they are not worth hiring. They should have full Liability and Worker’s Compensation insurance. This protects you as the homeowner if any accidents happen on the job site. Insurance can also cover property damage, such as someone accidentally putting a hammer through your glass table, or if any injuries happen while working in your house.
If the contractor or company does not have valid insurance and someone gets hurt, the person who is hurt can file a lawsuit against you as the homeowner. Some contractors obtain temporary insurance on a job-to-job basis. If they refuse to produce insurance or obtain it for the job, don’t hire them.
4. Check with the Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a great resource to view complaint history from consumers. The most important part of reviewing a Companies BBB profile would be if the company has resolved the complaints. If the company ignores the complaint that is filed against them there rating will drop and BBB will post that the complaint is unresolved. Learn more about the BBB Central and Northern Alberta region.
Companies listed on RenovationFind who are also accredited by the BBB receive a higher rating on our directory.
5. Beware of Fake Reviews
Reviews posted on a renovation companies website, an outside review site or on Google reviews might not be entirely accurate. In fact, they could be completely made-up.
A lot of consumers rely on online reviews to help them make major purchasing decisions. Online reviews could come in handy if you knew they were the honest-to-goodness opinions of real consumers who have actually purchased the product or services of the company in question. The truth is that online reviews are not always accurate or reliable. Some companies pay reviewers to post positive reviews even though they’ve never stepped foot in their business or they sign in under an alias and post made-up reviews about themselves.
There are review-specific sites that give a listing of companies who score high based on positive consumer reviews. Unfortunately, most of them give preference to companies who pay to be on the site or have purchase advertising on the site. So, if two companies in the same field have the same positive review rating, the one who has paid more will appear at the top of the list. That’s hardly an honest consumer review-based ranking. Some review sites also allow companies to survey their customers and post their own reviews. Even though the review might actually be from a real customer, there is no way a company would choose to survey the customers who had a negative experience. This can be very biased.
If you absolutely must read consumer reviews search the Better Business Bureau. Not only do they now publish consumer complaints, they also show if the issue was resolved or not. Good companies will resolve the issue immediately.
6. Don’t pay 100% of the money upfront
Reputable companies will not expect 100 percent of the renovation’s cost upfront, but they will likely require a deposit when the contract is signed. If you’re asked for a deposit, do not be alarmed, most companies will do this to back themselves up in case the customer pulls out of the contract after work has already began.
If it is a large project, you can ask the contractor or renovation company if you can set up a payment schedule. An example of a payment schedule could be a 10 percent deposit, then three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced throughout the project, and the final 15 percent when you feel every item on the ‘to-do’ list has been checked off.
Finding the Right Contractor the First Time
RenovationFind has done all of this work for you! We have put every home improvement company on our directory through a stringent screening process, eliminating companies who have extensive legal problems, numerous consumer complaints or signs of financial trouble. We offer a directory featuring the best-of-the-best renovation companies who rise above their competitors in quality service, products, workmanship and business practices.
We use a third-party organization to complete both financial and legal background checks, and we continue to monitor those companies to make sure their still compliant with the RenovationFind accreditation standards. We also monitor active and valid business insurance, licenses and WCB/WSIB. For companies to receive a higher rating in our directory, we encourage them to be accredited by the Better Business Bureau showing they’re committed to make a good faith effort to resolve any future consumer complaints.
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