Since 1998, at least 15% of all consumer complaints tracked by the government and by the Better Business Bureau have been about home improvements. Complaints about home improvements typically rank in the top three of all consumer complaints. And when you stop to consider that a home improvement gone wrong can make you feel both vulnerable and personally involved, it’s not hard to see why. There are steps you can take to help protect yourself, however, starting with understanding what the most common complaints are and how to avoid them.
One of the biggest and most common complaints in home improvements has to do with the quality of the work done in your home. There are several areas where this is particularly common, including painters, driveway pavers, and roofing and siding, but shoddy work can happen anywhere. And while some people believe that, “You get what you pay for”, paying more for a job isn’t a guarantee that it’s going to get done right.
How can you protect yourself? By following up on your Pro during the vetting process. Get references and call them, ask to see a portfolio of previous work, check up on the status of the license, and look up your Pro on the Better Business Bureau to see if others have lodged complaints already.
Work Left Undone
There is nothing more frustrating than finding that the job you hired someone to do hasn’t been completed. It’s even worse when you’ve already paid for the job.
While most states have laws to help protect you by limiting the amount you should pay your Pro before work begins, many unscrupulous workers will ask for half or even the full amount upfront. There’s no reason why they should complete the job now, let alone to your satisfaction. Insurance scams and natural disasters where grant money is at play are the two most common times when you’ll see a so-called Pro start a job, but never finish it, having collected the money in advance.
What can you do to protect yourself? Make sure your Pro is licensed and local – never hire anyone from out of state where it’s harder to go after them if they leave you high and dry. Double-check that your Pro is licensed; a license means that you have the means to hold your Pro accountable for agreed-upon work left undone. If your Pro is agreeable, you may want to work out a payment schedule for large jobs, where you pay an agreed-upon percentage for each phase of the job completed. Finally, never give more than a small deposit and no more than half the money upfront. Check with your state building laws to find out how much you should expect to pay before the work begins.
Damage to Your Property
Typically, you hire a Pro to work on your home because you’re trying to repair it or improve its condition. Unfortunately for some homeowners, this can also lead to other areas of your home in worse condition than they were before the work began. Property damage is one of the most common complaints that gets taken to court with hundreds of cases pursued each year. This may result from a plumber wrecking your tile or a roofer putting his foot through a skylight, or simply from shoddy workers not bothering to clean up after themselves, leaving your property a mess. In some cases, this can be dangerous if they don’t bother to magnet roll for nails or other debris after they’re done.
What can you do to help avoid this? Have it written into the contract that the Pro is responsible for cleanup and for leaving the rest of your property in the condition it was found in. If a wall needs to be opened to access pipes, or if secondary work is needed, make sure your Pro discusses it with you first to ensure that you’re aware before it happens. You can also make sure to double-check with the references you call that your Pro has a record of cleaning up after the job so that you aren’t left doing it.
If damage does occur, be sure to document everything with pictures as soon as you discover it. If your camera has a date feature, use this as well, so if you have to confront your Pro about the work later, you have proof that this is the way they left the job.
Home improvements can take from weeks to months to complete, which means you’ll be seeing a lot of your Pro. Ideally, you’ll get along together and can iron out any problems quickly and easily, but if you and your Pro don’t get along, you could find yourself caught in multiple, daily disagreements about how the work should be carried out. Remember; you’re the homeowner and the one paying for the job. Your Pro should satisfy you and your expectations within reason. Otherwise, you could find yourself embroiled in a battle for your own home and the way it looks and functions.
What can you do? Make sure that you get along with your Pro by interviewing at least three candidates to see whose vision lines up best with yours. Or use our matching service that will not only vet your Pro but will match you on personality and vision as well so that you know that you’re both in sync. Remember, your Pro also needs to be in sync and in agreement with you; watch for subtle clues that he or she may not want the job to avoid conflicts later on. Your home improvement project is a collaboration between the two of you, so make sure you’re both equally invested.
Protect Yourself and Your Property
Many common home improvement complaints can be solved by simply vetting your Pro and following through on things like contracts and doubling checking references. We know that these are time-consuming steps, so sign up today to let us do the work for you, and you can proceed with your home improvement project without cause for concern.