How to know if you hired a shady contractor

Finding the right person to work on your home can be difficult. Many websites offer recommendations on home remodeling professionals, and your friends or family may have suggestions. However, it can be hard to trust online reviews, and even a friend's recommendation will occasionally fall short.

In Massachusetts, all contractors or subcontractors that work on a one to four-unit residential building must register as a Home Improvement Contractor under the Home Improvement Contractor Act. According to the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, this law also protects homeowners and gives you recourse if a contractor fails to comply.

Even if you read numerous recommendations and call references, you may still wind up with a contractor who is less than honest. But you do not want to ruin the reputation of a person who made a few mistakes. Here are eight signs you may have hired a dishonest contractor.

Missing paperwork

A contractor that does not have a Home Improvement Contractor registration, Construction Supervisor License or insurance documents available for your review may be cutting corners. That could mean shoddy work or lack of willingness to held accountable.

No permits

Many projects require permits from the city. If you suspect your project requires a permit, a good contractor will always want to comply. A shady contractor may also ask you to get the permit. That is not normal behavior.

Get it in writing

A good contractor provides you a copy of the contract or any change orders. Someone who does not provide you a copy may be trying to hide something or does not want you to have proof what they agreed to complete.

Asks for too much deposit money

A contractor should not ask for more than one-third of their fee before the project is started. Asking for a larger deposit than that is illegal. Continually asking for money for unexpected costs is also suspect. Or even worse, asking for money for gas or other expenses you should not have to pay for.

Continually delays starting the project

Some contractors may take your deposit money with no intention of finishing the project. If your contractor comes up with continual excuses for starting, you likely have a dishonest contractor.

Uses materials not agreed upon

At the start of a project, you and the contractor will go over the materials to be used on your project. A bad contractor may try to use cheaper or different materials without getting your permission.

Does not pay subcontractors

Contractors often use subcontractors. A shady contractor may not pay his or her subcontractors, even when you have paid the contractor enough to cover their work.

Completes bad work

Everyone makes an occasional mistake. However, if your contractor refuses to correct shoddy work or continues to make mistakes, it is likely time to look for a new contractor.

A contractor that exhibits one or more of these behaviors is likely an untrustworthy contractor. You can file a complaint with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Or if you think your contractor is in breach of contract, you could pursue legal action.

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Attorney Christopher J. Fein

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