Every year, many homeowners hire contractors to complete a wide range of projects, and most of them are usually pleased with the results. However, you never cease to find displeased homeowners who get ripped off by bad contractors and their poor work.
By George Nicola (Expert Stager)
As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to protect your rights from being violated by unethical contractors. Scam contractors are generally incompetent, and their dishonest ways can leave you unhappy and broke once you fall victim to their outright fraud.
Read on to know how to get revenge on a bad contractor. I will also explain how to spot a bad contractor and how to protect yourself from them.
Typical Ways Bad Contractors Lie
There are many dishonest things a bad contractor can do from buying substandard materials to pocket your money to using drugs on the job and exposing themselves and others to danger. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
The following are the typical lies bad renovation contractors use, I advise you that once you spot any of them, fire them immediately.
1. They Won’t Sign a Contract
Contractors who won’t sign a contract are likely to do shoddy work. Ensuring your contractor puts pet on paper on a contractual agreement is the best way to protect yourself from unforeseen misunderstandings or disputes.
Most bad renovation contractors don’t like written agreements and will find excuses to sign a contract, especially when working on short-term projects. Once the homeowner pays the deposit, they rush into completing it to avoid being asked about the contract.
2. They Start the Project, Vanish, Then Resume
They are never consistent with project schedules. Instead, they actively start working on a specific task, but they disappear after a short period of doing minimal work.
When homeowners contact them, they make up many lies about their whereabouts, only to return briefly and vanish again.
Such never-ending back and forth may take months or even years until the homeowner decides to hire a new contractor, or in the worst-case scenario, the project stalls completely.
3. They Periodically Inflate the Project Budget
Sometimes, project budgets may increase due to inevitable factors like erroneous estimates or a rise in the cost of materials.
While good contractors always plan for such scenarios, bad ones usually trap homeowners by doing unwarranted work and demanding payment beyond the project budget. Be wary of such scam tactics by seeking advice from another local contractor once you realize your project budget inflates.
4. They Charge Uncharacteristically Lower Rates
Typical bad renovation contractors find unscrupulous ways of reducing costs, especially when running a sole proprietor business.
Charging you a significantly lower rate for a project should raise your eyebrows, especially if it is too good to be true compared to other local contractors.
This could mean that they rarely spend on marketing, lack insurance, or even use the latest technology. Once they do a substandard job, they can quickly vanish without a trace.
5. They Work during Strange Hours
When is your contractor actually working on your project? Is their schedule rigged with long hours, or is he hardly ever around? Is the job site strangely quiet during working hours?
Ask yourself these key questions when evaluating the working schedule of your contractor. Most contractors set their own working hours to ensure your project is completed within the agreed timelines.
However, bad contractors’ overall professionalism and commitment are questionable when they are constantly absent at the job’s site, especially if you’ve spotted first signs for poor work!
5 Bad Contractor Excuses for Substandard Work
Would you hire a contractor who has a history of delivering poor work? Would you be pleased to see your project completed with multiple defects?
I have been in a situation myself asking: What to do when the contractor does poor work?
Below are some of the common excuses bad contractors use for delivering shoddy work:
1. Unavailability of Materials
Bad renovation contractors are always ready to point out that they delivered poor work due to the unavailability of certain materials that were important in the completion of a project.
While they usually pretend to share the homeowners’ dissatisfaction, they indirectly shift the blame to an unexpected shortage of essential products or materials. This may be due to budget constraints or an unforeseen shortage in the market.
2. Acts of God
“Acts of God” are sudden uncontrollable events such as floods, landslides, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, etc. Even though they serve as good excuses, contractors may capitalize on the situation after delivering poor work.
In the aftermath of the acts of God, the contractor may speed up the process of completing your project without heeding the necessary procedures. In addition, they may end up overpricing after adding the cost of damages to your budget.
3. Shortage of Labour
A homeowner’s project may be delayed due to a shortage of labor, which may force a contractor to stop working for a specific period.
Such occurrences are excusable to some extent, but contractors may mention that work stoppage was caused by labor strikes, which obliged them to take drastic actions to ease the stoppage, such as hiring semi-skilled laborers to complete the project. In addition, in 90% of the cases, the 3rd party is cheaper, delivering shoddy work, which acts as an excuse.
4. Abnormal Weather Conditions
The intensity of weather conditions, such as precipitation, temperature, wind, and humidity, can adversely affect construction projects because they are generally unpredictable.
Depending on your region, some weather conditions may occur out of the ordinary, but the extent to which they become “abnormal” is critical to the quality of work contractors deliver. Primarily, weather conditions can be controlled, but contractors use it as an excuse.
5. Blaming Fellow Workers and Equipment
Contractors including engineers, supervisors and superintendents usually shift the blame to their fellow workers when it comes to taking responsibility for delivering poor quality work. They can also go to the extent of their tools and equipment.
When is a Contractor Bad?
Spotting terrible work is not easy: their mistakes may be elusive, or they may simply be highly skilled at covering up their tracks. Unfortunately, construction scammers are extremely good at their craft, and they can deceive you from the get-go.
Generally, a construction scammer makes so many mistakes that can cost you far more than the estimated budget of your project.
While many homeowners contemplate that contractors’ errors and the ensuing financial losses are part of any project, it is worth the time and effort to go after such scam companies to recover your money.
While some homeowners consider hiring a contractor a regular part of a project, others carefully go through the process like picking a spouse.
It is also important to note that many positive reviews on a contractors’ website do not necessarily qualify them to be good.
How to Spot a Bad Contractor
Hiring a good renovation company can be a giant leap towards completing your construction project without a hitch. Currently, there is a myriad of ‘qualified’ contractors and subcontractors both online and offline. However, not all of them are actually competent enough.
Irrespective of the extent to which you screen potential reno companies during the hiring process, there are specific signs to look into if you want to spot a bad contractor.
1. Bad Contractors always give vague/weak contracts
While many homeowners hire lawyers to examine lengthy home improvement contracts, those who receive short and sweet ones must be careful.
For example, “Install new cabinets, paint wardrobes, mount new sink” followed by a high-cost estimate does not cut it! Principled contractors give detailed descriptions, including the cost of labor/materials and payment schedule.
2. They Lack Licence/Insurance
Most sham renovation companies rarely renew their license/insurance or are blatant imposters.
It is a major red flag if the renovation company you hired does not have the proper paperwork to show that he is licensed and holds valid insurance. If they don’t have one, they will not take your construction project seriously. For instance, you’ll be held responsible in case of any injury or damage.
3. They’ve Change their Company Name Severally
While many contractors change their company names for marketing purposes, doing it severally in a short period is a red flag.
Check whether the company has been slapped by a series of lawsuits that damaged their reputation, hence the constant change of company name. First, ask them about their length of experience before checking the duration of the company.
4. They Demand Huge Upfront Payments
Down payments are a standard way of securing your place in the schedule of a contractor so that he can start working on your project.
However, substantial down payments of more than 25 to 30 percent are signs that you might be paying a sham renovators. Before picking the right contractor among a list of ideal candidates, ensure you discuss their typical down payment prices.
5. Contractors are Full of Excuses
All construction projects come with their fair share of challenges. The most important thing is to assess how your contractor handles them along the way.
A lousy construction company will always give you a lot of excuses instead of clear explanations and solutions when things go wrong. Too many excuses and blame without taking responsibility are signs of a bad renovation company.
6. Search online for their name and complaints about poor work
Often when a company decides to scam people, especially in the renovation sector, 80% of the victims (homeowners) complain online. Therefore, it is a good rule of thumb to research anything connected to their name, business name, phone number, website, and even e-mail.
The most prominent keyphrases you might notice are:
- Poor contractor work
- The renovation company has scammed me
- Our renovation project has been costly so far, and the work is poor
- They took the deposit and never returned
- It takes months and the quality of work is poor
For best results with the search engine, try writing their name like that:
“their name” poor contractor work
your preferred search engine will run the search and all results with the name of the company or person will show up.
First Signs When Your Contractor is Lying to You
The first time you meet your contractor, he/she may seem competent, civilized, and everything checks all the boxes. However, such mannerisms could be too good to be true!
Below are the tell-tale signs that your contractor is lying through his/her teeth!
1. “I Can Complete This in a Few Weeks”
Lying contractors often jump the gun to boast about how they can complete your project within an uncharacteristically shorter time frame just to please you.
Some go to the extent of agreeing to finish your project unexpectedly faster even if it typically takes more time.
They answer quickly, ‘Yes, I complete it in two weeks!” even before knowing exactly what you want.
2. “I Have Worked on a Similar Project”
Such a bold statement from a lying contractor could stop any homeowner in his tracks, even if they were focused on hiring a different one.
Such statements arise when the contractor cannot back them up with real or tangible evidence.
If you are keen enough to insist on verifying it by talking to the owner of the “similar project,” you’ll catch them in their lie.
3. “I Have No Physical Office”
A genuine contractor should have an office location even if he has secluded one of the rooms in his home for that purpose.
The contract should also indicate his local bank details and various accounts with local suppliers.
Once you realize that your contractor only has a P.O. box and a cell phone number, look him up on your state licensing bureau to verify his business.
How to Fire a Bad Contractor
Unhappy with contractors work?
Don’t rush into action when you have decided to fire a sham renovation company because you are unhappy with their work because you’ll incur heavy expenses if you do it wrong.
First, get all documentation and photos you’ve made during the construction process.
If you don’t have such documentation, you should have a contract or agreement in writing that outlays the scope of work, time, budget and work tolerances.
Second, once you have gone through everything, register all issues and make a list out of them in the greatest possible detail, referencing each part of the contract.
Third, before you see them make sure to get a copy of a construction standards book; in the UK, this is called “common minimum standards of construction”; alongside that, RICS has an enormous library of information on that matter. It is called “Building codes & standards” in the US; each state has its building guides.
If your building and construction project is in a different country, check the local government guide and structure standards and regulations.
Fourth, establish the discrepancies between the standards set by the experts, your own requirements and what’s being done in reality by your builder. Finally, write everything in one e-mail explaining every step of the process; if you can include a timeline of the events, conversations and specific moments, add that too.
Overall your task is to ensure you have a substantial reason to fire them and document everything by offsetting the risk to a minimum as possible.
If they do not respond to your e-mails and insist to “talking this through”, that is because they know e-mails nowadays is considered legal documents.
If nothing works, your next step is to tell the local government authorities that you are unhappy with their work and file a complaint.
- Where to complain – File a complaint with the contractor licensing board of your state. If the contractor has many complaints against him/her, the information could be made public.
- How to complain – Apart from filling a complaint form online, you can call the contractor licensing board of your state to mail it to you. Alternatively, you can download the form, print it and fill it before mailing it to the appropriate address.
- Sample terms to put in a contract – These include identity of the parties (individuals/businesses), addresses, purpose(s) of the contract, duties, rights, important dates, quantities, costs/prices, etc.
Expert advice: Indicate in the contract that any breach of the terms may lead to legal action.
How to Deal With Bad Contractors
Your project can go wrong even if you had hired right contractor in the first place. So long as the bad contractor is still licenced, below are your ideal options on how to deal with them:
Some states have laws that protect homeowners from contractors who ask for more than 30 percent of their payment upfront. If your contractors is doing shoddy work even after you paid the required deposit, you can withhold their payment until they rectify their mistakes.
File a Complaint
Since the bad contractor is licenced, you can file a complaint against him/her with the state or county agency that licensed them. Such a complaint will hasten the process of settling your dispute because many contractors dread losing their license.
Tap their Bond
Most contractors are usually licensed, insured, and bonded. You can contact the insurance company that issued their bond and ask whether you can get even with a bad contractor who did substandard work, damaged your property, or failed to pay subcontractors.
Go to Arbitration
If your contractor is too elusive, check whether your contract has a mandatory arbitration clause. Compared to a lawsuit, arbitration is less costly and doesn’t need an attorney. A qualified arbitrator will pay attention to both sides of your stories before issuing an unbiased decision.
Seek Compensation from the Government
Did you know that some states collect fees from licensed contractors to reimburse defrauded homeowners? So if your contractor did shoddy work or even abandoned you halfway through the project, you could be eligible for government compensation!
Costs of Paying Cheap Contractors (Their Everyday Mistakes)
It’s not a written rule but most of the time it’s true. Lower contractor offers = poor work
Steal from You
Your contractor might order extra materials and keep the surplus once they complete your project. Always compare the materials listed in your contract with receipts of actual orders.
Changing Project Deadlines
Cheap contractors usually give good-to-be-true deadlines, but in the course of the project, they constantly promise multiple deadlines and end up not completing on time.
Too Many Customizations
Cheap contractors lack the skills and experience to make informed choices. While working on your project, they will propose many changes and fixes to what was already completed.
Hiring a cheap contractor could mean that they lack proper insurance. Consider the hefty bills and lawsuits that could follow if a worker is injured and an uninsured contractor cannot pay up.
It’s simple. Cheap is expensive! Even if your budge is constrained, avoid hiring cheap contractors because they will start looking to cut costs and eventually deliver low quality work.
How to Define Scope and Scale of Work to Avoid Your Contractors Ripping You Off
- Payment schedules – Payment schedules help you and your contractors to view the cash flow of your project at a glance. This makes it easy to plan ahead through the construction process and prevents any payment delays.
- Gantt charts – A Gantt chart provides a simple graphical illustration of the tasks, sub-tasks, and milestones of a project and helps contractors to effectively plan ahead by dates and time frames.
- Documentation of Jobsite activities – Documentation on a concurrent basis provides an exhaustive “memory” of project activities and a permanent record that allows detailed reconstruction, review, and analysis of actions events, and actions.
You’ve reached the end of this article. I assume now you know how to get revenge on a bad contractor.
- Homeowners should protect their rights from being violated by unethical contractors.
- Bad renovation companies make many mistakes that inflate the estimated budget of a project.
- Bad renovation contractors are incompetent, and they should be fired once they are exposed.
- You can get revenge on a lousy contractor as long as they are still licensed.
- Cheap contractors are expensive in the long run
- Always do online research before hiring a contractor
- Pay attention to every site inspection if there are signs of poor work
- Never pay a deposit higher than 25% – 30%. Ideally, the deposit should be on staged or increments of 3 – 10%.
- Use payment schedules
- Ask for Jobsite activities
- Photograph every stage of the project and process (especially Electro, Plumbing, and HVAC)
- Do not take the cheapest offer (never!)
- Ask for testimonials or real-life examples of their work and quality.
- Get a second (external) opinion when in doubt even if you have to pay