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What to know before hiring a contractor to work on your home

Whether you’re considering repairs to your home, townhouse or condo, the Better Business Bureau says there are some important red flags to keep an eye out for.
Whether you’re considering repairs to your home, townhouse or condo, the Better Business Bureau says there are some important red flags to keep an eye out for.

Flaws in the design and construction of the collapsed Surfside condominium and questionable repairs by contractors have homeowners thinking twice about whom they hire to work on their homes.

Whether you’re considering repairs to your home, townhouse or condo, the Better Business Bureau says there are some important red flags to keep an eye out for before you hire a contractor to do the work.

Tom Stephens, president of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida, recommends that property owners start by looking into a contractor to make sure they’re legitimate.

“The contractor’s license number is supposed to be on everything he has in print: his business card, his contract,” Stephens said. “It should really be on his truck. If he’s driving around on a truck without a license number, it makes it suspicious.”

Stephens pointed out that property owners can look up a contractor’s license on MyFloridaLicense.com. There you can search for the individual or company name to make sure their license is active.

But what if the contractor’s license isn’t active? Stephens said that’s a red flag that could cost you.

“The main thing it does is remove you from any chance of getting any funds from the construction recovery fund, which was put in place if the contractor screws things up,” he said. “They pay into that, their license supports the construction recovery fund.”

Some other tips

  • Run the company’s name through a search engine and include the words “scam” or “review to see what kind of results pop up.
  • Visit the Better Business Bureau website to check the contractor’s rating or grade before you agree to do business with them.
  • Pay close attention to how the contractor handles complaints. If they didn’t treat someone else well, that should be telling.
  • Review the contract thoroughly before you sign it. Make note of the materials that will be used and the completion date.
  • If you don’t understand all or part of the contract, seek out a second set of eyes. You can also ask a professional for help.

“They are complicated contracts written by attorneys, designed to protect their clients in all situations,” Stephens said. “Look for anything to your disadvantage.”

You might also consider searching your local court records to see if there are any lawsuits filed against the contractor or their business over financial issues or their workmanship.


About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.