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Choosing A Contractor (Pt. 2)

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KDKA's John Shumway speaks with the BBB about what you can do to protect yourself when hiring a contractor.

Video Transcript

- OK, buyer beware and do your research. Those are the words of caution from the Better Business Bureau as we roll through the biggest time of the year for contractor rip offs.

- So how do you avoid being victimized for thousands of dollars? John Shumway joins us with some advice. And, John, that's the biggest thing here is because construction is so expensive.

JOHN SHUMWAY: Oh, and it really is. And with the lumber costs and everything up right now, it's going to be even more expensive this year. But number one, don't ever pay for everything up front and get everything in writing.

CAITLIN DRISCOLL: Really be cautious of any contractors who are trying to pressure you into committing on the spot, making a payment, signing a contract immediately.

JOHN SHUMWAY: Caitlin Driscoll with the Better Business Bureau says never jump on the first offer.

CAITLIN DRISCOLL: Solicit at least three bids or estimates from prospective contractors. And make sure they're based on those same building specifications-- materials, labor, time needed to complete the project.

JOHN SHUMWAY: Then she says, get everything clearly in writing, everything including--

CAITLIN DRISCOLL: Every verbal promise, even, and that you understand the contract. Pay by credit card as well, since you have the most recourse if there are any potential issues. Make sure you keep documentation. Request receipts of any payment that you make as well.

JOHN SHUMWAY: And speaking of payments--

CAITLIN DRISCOLL: But for a contract of more than $5,000, a contractor is legally not allowed to accept a deposit in excess of one third of that contract price or one third of that price plus the cost of any special order materials.

JOHN SHUMWAY: And make sure the dates of the work are spelled out.

CAITLIN DRISCOLL: If 45 days have passed since work was to begin-- what was listed in your contract-- and no substantial portion of that work has been performed, you as the customer, are able to request a refund in writing.

JOHN SHUMWAY: Yeah, and make sure you send that request certified mail, because the contractor has to refund your money within 10 days of receiving the request for the refund.

- Everything in writing.

JOHN SHUMWAY: Absolutely.

- OK, so what if the contractor doesn't want to wait around for you to get other estimates, because that can take a little bit of time too.

JOHN SHUMWAY: Yeah, but you know what, if they're that impatient, it may mean there's something wrong with their estimate. They may be overpricing you. So make sure they put their estimate in writing and give you an expiration date on that estimate. Also, the BBB says that the lowest bid is not always the best bid, because sometimes, those contractors are well, cutting corners.

- I see.

- Yeah, lots of good information. Thank you, John.

JOHN SHUMWAY: Yeah, be careful.

- Thanks, John.