4 Tips to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by a Contractor

Written by Angie's List Staff
Updated May 21, 2013
home improvement contractor on roof with hammer
Don't hire a contractor who'll take the money and run; do your due diligence when hiring. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

Planning a remodel? Do your research to avoid getting ripped off by a bad contractor.

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If you need to hire a contractor — whether it's to clean your gutters or remodel your bathroom — consider the following tips to avoid getting ripped off.

1. Do your homework.

Solicit at least three bids for your project and check Angie’s List, industry associations and previous clients’ references before hiring. Visit the contractor’s completed projects during the bid review process, particularly when it’s a big job.

2. Vet and verify.

Ask the Angie’s List Trade Licensing Department if a contractor is required to have a state or local trade license to do your job, and then verify his or her status with the appropriate licensing agency. Ask for proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance and bonding (if applicable).

3. Negotiate a detailed contract.

It should specify contractor/homeowner responsibilities, start and completion dates, terms that tie payments to job progress and completion, itemized materials and any warranty information, and whether subcontractors will be used.

4. Ask for a detailed outline of costs.

Expect to pay at least one-third of the total cost upfront, and always withhold at least 10 percent until the job is completed. When paying, use a credit card if possible for better protection.

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