How to Spot a 'Fly-By-Night' Contractor
If you are planning a home improvement or renovation project, make sure you don't get caught by a 'fly-by-night' contractor.
When doing home improvement or renovation projects that require you to have a contractor do the job for you, you want to make sure that you don't hire a 'fly-by-night' contractor - one that is unreliable and untrustworthy. But how do you do that? We have put together a list that you can refer to avoid a contractor that is 'here today and gone tomorrow', possibly with all your money as well!
In an effort to offer some protection when hiring a contractor, take note of the following:
What does 'fly-by-night mean?
As the saying goes, a fly by night contractor is someone who will disappear once they have your money in hand. It could also mean a business that is only out there to trap unsuspecting homeowners into parting with their hard-earned money, only to vanish overnight. I'm sure that there are many people out there who have been the unfortunate victims of such contractors, having been left in the lurch with an unfinished project, a job not well done, or a building site where the contractor cannot be found.
Do some research
The Internet makes it possible to quickly spread the word if you have been involved with a fraudulent or unreliable contractor, so that would be your first step if you have names in hand of people who have been in touch with you. A basic search should provide some information and help you find the right contractor for the job.
Any reliable contractor will be happy to share their projects on their website or have references from previous clients who can be contacted for references. A contractor that doesn't or can't provide references is not someone you want to sign up with.
Finding a reliable contractor
Promotional leaflets are easy and affordable to print, so don't always believe what gets dropped in your post box. The same applies to promotional magazines that get distributed free of charge to neighbourhoods. Nothing beats word of mouth - a reference from someone who has previously used the services of a company and gives them a glowing reference.
With more than a few fly-by-night contractors out there, it's in your best interest to check before you agree to any work being done.
Pricing does matter
We all love a quote that's within our budget, but not if it's to the detriment of the project and the possibility of losing your money. Any contractor should be able to offer a quotation that lists what is to be done in details, the services they will provide, and a guarantee for the work they do. But even a fly-by-night contractor can do that. If you have checked out their references, ensured they have the right qualifications or license and have been assured that the work they perform is up to standard, make sure everything is covered in their quotation or estimate.
There will always be jobs where a payment is due upon signature. I have had roofing contractors ask me for 50% of the payment upon signing. Even a long-standing company will need funds to purchase materials and supplies, but they shouldn't ask for more than this. Even a 50% deposit is high, but as long as you have covered all the bases and are confident in the contractor, you should feel safe when handing over money. Having said that, unless specified in the contract that they require payment upon signing and a further payment down the line, you should not need to hand over any more money.
At the end of the day, there will always be contractors that comply with everything listed above, be charming and sincere, and still disappear with your cash and leave you in a difficult situation. But the bottom line is that at least you covered all the bases.