Whether you are looking for last minute snow plow services or considering options for winterizing your home or vehicle, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Upstate New York encourages homeowners to shop smart and keep basic tips in mind before hiring a company or contractor.
With harsh winters in Upstate New York, making sure you safely prepare your home and vehicle can save you money in the long run. BBB offers the following hiring tips before scheduling annual maintenance:
Research and gather information. Search for a contractor’s Business Profile at BBB.org for free information on their history of complaints, read verified customer reviews, and see if they are an Accredited Business. BBB Accredited Businesses make a commitment to uphold BBB’s accreditation standards including: to build trust, advertise honestly, tell the truth, be transparent, honor their promises, be responsive to their customers, safeguard privacy and embody integrity.
Don’t accept unsolicited offers. In some cases, a contractor will come to the door to offer services. For example, a “paving company” may come to the door stating they have leftover material from a previous job and will offer you a great price. This is a red flag. Customers should never hand money over for a job on the spot and should research the company before hiring.
Ask for references. Ask the contractor for a list of recent local references you may contact. Ask the references about the services performed and their overall experience with the contractor and the quality of the work.
Ask for multiple quotes. You should always shop around and get at least three quotes from different businesses. Make sure all bids consider the same set of criteria. Remember that the lowest bid may not necessarily be the best bid; if one bid is significantly lower than the others, the contractor may be cutting corners or may not understand your work requirements.
Get it in writing. Always get estimates in writing and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and make sure you read and understand everything before signing. The contract should include contact information, start and complete dates, a detailed description of the exact work to be done, any material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information. Specify who is to obtain necessary building permits and who is responsible for clean-up. Make sure all verbal promises are included in the contract. Ask how much work will be subcontracted and ask for information on the subcontractors. Ask questions if you do not understand any part of the contract. Never sign an incomplete or partially blank contract.
Verify license and insurance. Always be sure that the company you decide to work with has the necessary licenses and insurance to work in your region. Once you have your contractor’s insurance information, call the carrier to confirm appropriate coverage for worker’s compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case of accidents.
Confirm building permits. Your contractor must have the correct permits before starting your project. They will usually obtain the permits, but you will probably pay for them. That should be detailed in your contract. Request that all final inspections be completed by the local building official prior to final payment.
Think about future service issues. Make sure you are aware of your warranty coverage and how to deal with service issues.
Arrange a payment schedule. Never pay in full upfront. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it. Do not pay cash; make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or that you use a credit card. Paying with a credit card will provide some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract. Review your credit card policy for more details.
Get a receipt. Request a receipt marked “Paid in Full” when the job is completed and your final payment made.
Keep your contract. Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is complete.