It is an unfortunate fact of life that a small minority of people advertising their services as contractors are untrustworthy. Whether this is due to criminal intent on their part or simple negligence or inexperience, it can have dire consequences for the person who hires them. Thankfully, there are some glaring warning signs that – if properly identified – will help us avoid making such a mistake.
One of the main red flags that something is amiss is if they don’t want to put a cost estimate in writing and offer unusually cheap rates. Although unbelievably cheap work could be down to inexperience, it is more likely that they are trying to entice you into buying a service they have no intention of providing with any degree of diligence. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If they cannot provide any verifiable references for the quality of their work, then walk away from the deal.
Another major warning sign is if they are unwilling to provide you with a business address, landline number for their office or any kind of paperwork proving their identity/business status. ‘Rogue traders’ rely on their victims having no way to track them down in order to take legal action and as such will try to remain anonymous by using disposable mobile phones as their primary point of contact.
If they ask for payment prior to completion of work, be very wary. A reputable tradesperson will not do this, preferring instead to use their own accounts to buy materials and tools whilst on the job and simply billing you upon finishing the project. If a client refuses to pay for work completed on a contract, then a legitimate tradesperson will simply be able to take legal action against them. There is no trustworthy reason why a contractor should demand payment in advance.
Exercise caution if a tradesperson appears overly eager to rush ahead with the work and start as soon as possible. Although not a sign of malicious intent, a lack of caution and planning is indicative of inexperience. In this case, it may be best to sit down with them to go over your plans before starting any work. Another possibility is that it could be an indication that they are looking to shrug off losses from an incomplete or failed project elsewhere. If this is the case, it may be best to look for another provider.
Lastly, if they refuse to sign a contract or attempt to pressure you into signing one, do not give them any business. You are under no obligations to work with someone who conducts themselves in such an unscrupulous manner. If an individual refuses to sign a contract, it is typically because they are looking to exploit you and provide a shoddy level of service. Similarly, if a contractor is attempting to strong-arm you into signing a contract before you have had ample time to consult with a family attorney, then they obviously do not have your best interests at heart.