Page 24 - BusinessWest October 13, 2021
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Remodeling Woes
Take These Important Steps to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Joshua L. Woods, Esq.
Many of us love watching home renova- tions on television. Whether the redos are taking place at a beach-house
bungalow, a tiny apartment, or a Victorian mansion, it’s always entertaining to live vicari- ously through people remodeling a house or building their dream home.
But what happens when opportunity knocks in real life, and you have the chance to create a space of your own design? Perhaps you envision a beautiful, blue-tiled backsplash against white kitchen cabinets, heated bathroom floors, or a cozy living room with a gas fireplace. With a reli- able and trustworthy contractor, all things are possible.
Unfortunately, not all contractors are reliable and trustworthy. Someone close to me recently experienced firsthand the horrors of hiring the wrong renovation company. My friends lived
to tell the tale, but along the way, their family suffered through considerable delays, shoddy work resulting in added expenses and additional repairs, and the all-consuming worry of work- ing with an uncommunicative contractor. Here is the story of a ‘craftsman’ remodeling company whose primary craft proved to be collecting pay- ments for unperformed work.
It all began when my friends, first-time home- buyers, hired a local contracting company to perform a complete restoration and remodel of a charming 1930s colonial-style house. After inter- viewing five separate contractors, my friends decided to work with ‘Craftsmen’ (the company’s name has been changed to protect their ano- nymity). The contractor was extremely charis- matic, proposed a comparable bid, and seemed to have just the right can-do attitude needed to complete the project. Craftsmen provided three references who, when contacted, sang the com- pany’s praises. Craftsmen also had great online reviews. My friends decided to move forward and agreed to the terms of a proposal from Crafts- men, officially hiring the company for their project.
Craftsmen requested a down payment, and upon receiving the funds, the first step of the project — demolition — was scheduled. Pur- suant to the payment schedule on the written
proposal, the second payment would be due on demolition day, the third would be due when rough plumbing was installed, the fourth upon installation of rough
electrical, the fifth upon installation of drywall, and the sixth and final payment would be due when the project was completed.
To their chagrin, my
friends soon discov-
ered the problem with
this payment schedule:
the majority of the fees
would be paid prior to
the rebuilding. That is,
four hefty payments
were required before the
demolished spaces would be fully rebuilt.
At first, the contractor completed the demo work on schedule, but then they went silent. The house sat in disarray, unfinished, for months after the first payments were made. Nothing
was accomplished properly. The plumbing was installed incorrectly, there was an old toilet left in the dining room for months, the trim was unfin- ished, the hardwood floors were ruined, exposed electrical wires dangled from the walls, and the list went on. My friends finally decided they could no longer tolerate the situation and made the decision to fire Craftsmen.
For anyone considering renovations, keep the following steps in mind, which can help protect you from a similar experience:
• Verify the contractor is in good standing.
Ask for the contractor’s business-license number and research it on the state’s website to ensure there are no lawsuits against the company. You should also search the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
• Look into the contractor’s partners and vendors. Request a copy of the business license for all subcontractors who may work on your project.
• Contact references. Before hiring a contrac- tor, always ask for multiple references and con- tact as many as you can. Listen closely to what they say. When speaking with references, you
will certainly wish to inquire about the ‘big stuff,’ including satisfaction with the final project and pricing, but it may also be wise to inquire about
amount of stress, the upheaval of an un- finished living space, hideously long de- lays, and considerable additional expens- es. You can learn from their mishaps.”
smaller details including punctuality, cleanli- ness on the job site, responsiveness to calls and requests, etc. Looking back, my friend should perhaps have seen a red flag when Craftsmen provided only three references. A reputable com- pany should be able to provide evidence of a great many satisfied customers.
• Have an attorney review the fine print. Another red flag should have been the lack of
a formal contract at the outset and the lack of itemized billing during the project. Craftsmen provided only a written proposal, which is not sufficient for a project of this magnitude. When hiring a contractor, be sure to protect yourself by having a qualified attorney review all documents, proposals, and contracts before you sign. All con- tracts should include a clear payment schedule in which the final payment is typically 25% of
the entire fee, provided only upon completion of the project and a satisfactory final walk-through with the contractor. Once hired, all communica- tion should be in writing, and you should request regular written updates from the contractor, so there is a clear understanding of the status of work completed and work to be done.
 They had to live through an enormous
     • Document the process. As the saying goes,
a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is certainly true where renovation projects are con- cerned. Be certain
to take many pho-
tos of your project,
Continued on page 48
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