1. Any consumer considering hiring a contractor to do a home improvement project MUST do some homework before hiring someone.
- Before you even begin to call contractors and get estimates for the job you MUST have a clear idea of the project you have in mind, your timeline to have the work done, and your financial means and method of paying for the work;
- Is the contractor registered with the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractors program?; ( http://www.state.ma.us/homeimprovement/) This registration does not mean the contractor has been tested as to skills (that is a licensing process required of some like plumbers and electricians) but offers the consumer some additional rights if a problem develops with the job;
- Ask for and check references, and try to get one of a job the contractor is currently working on so you can go look at his work;
- Call the other references and be sure to ask such things as, “Did he obtain the necessary permits? Did he do the work in a timely manner as promised? Did he clean up well? Did he surprise you with some extra charges?”;
- Learn your rights so you do not have to pay more up front than is required by law;
- Get a well-written contract with details as to materials to be used, cost breakdowns, and what warranty coverage goes with the work.
2. Be sure you have the contractor obtain any necessary city/town building permits because it offers you protection and provides on-site inspection by an inspector;
3. If disaster strikes, reach out to one of the 19 local consumer programs connected to the Attorney General’s Office, see: http://www.ago.state.ma.us/con_pro/lcp.asp and contact the Office of Consumer Affairs to see if the HIC Arbitration program is a remedy for you in a bad situation. See: http://www.state.ma.us/consumer/Pubs/isarbrit.htm.
4. Other possible resources to use to find or to check out contractors would include checking the complaint history of particular contractors by calling the Better Business Bureau and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. See: http://www.bosbbb.org/or http://www.ago.state.ma.us/.
5. You might consider joining one of the new consumer-orientated services now available in the greater Boston Area:
A) Angie’s List: www.angieslist.com
B) Consumers Checkbook: www.checkbook.org
Both offer evaluations or feedback from consumers about specific businesses or service people like home improvement contractors