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Sheriff’s department offers tips for dealing with contractors

Sheriff’s department offers tips for dealing with contractors Sheriff’s department offers tips for dealing with contractors

On a regular basis, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. receives complaints from residents regarding bad behavior on the part of contractors. This is usually in the form of someone contracting with a business to do work on their home and either the work is not done or not completed as contracted.

In most cases, the complainants are out thousands of dollars, according to Sheriff Nick Smith.

The sheriff’s department offered the following tips to keep bad contractors at bay and better identity fraud:

Do not pay upfront. In most of the cases seen, the victims pay the entire amount upfront. This is not necessary with most reputable businesses. Most construction jobs do not require an outlay of money by the contractor prior to the job being started. For example, if a roof needs to be replaced, the contractor only purchases the material just prior to the job and has it delivered to the house. Most of the cost is in labor, not material, and there are no labor costs until the job is finished. Reputable contractors have accounts with building supply companies so they are not paying for material upfront. In a project that involves a large amount of money, like the building of a house, one would be required to pay a portion as the project progresses but not all at once. “If the contractor has your money and decides to make off with it, we may be able to prosecute, but you won’t see your money again,” Smith said.

Get a written estimate. Know what you are being charged and why. “This may seem pretty simple, but many times there is no estimate, just a bill,” the sheriff said.

Have a signed contract for most jobs. The contract, to be signed by you and the contractor, should detail the job to be done, cost for materials and labor and a timetable for payment.

If for some reason the contractor insist on money for material, buy it yourself and have it delivered. “If they don’t agree to this, don’t use them,” Smith said. “In many cases, the contractor says he needs so much money for material, the money is paid and nothing is delivered.”

Get a reference, if possible. Find out if this person has done a job for anyone else, talk to that person and see if the company did a good job. Call the Better Business Bureau and see if any complaints have been lodged against the company or the individual. “Many of the cases that we have had here were listed on those sites as a bad risk,” said the sheriff.

Get three estimates. “This will give you an idea of how much it is really going to cost,” Smith said. “You would be surprised at how different these can be.

“Sometimes shady contractors will jack up the cost or give an unreasonably low estimate,” he continued. “Beware of contractors who want to file a bill or estimate directly with your insurance company. This way, they may be able receive the money directly prior to completing the job. You won’t be out any money, but the job won’t be finished and you will not get any more money out of the insurance company.”