How to avoid hiring a bad contractor

Apr 15, 2024, 10:30 PM | Updated: 11:21 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — From projects stalled out by a contractor or outright abandoned to shoddy work leaving homeowners in a bind, Bobby Main sees it all. He investigates contractors for Utah’s Division of Professional Licensing.

“Every day, I see new reports come in,” Main said. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being lost by our citizens and it’s not fair.”

To make it fairer, Main says start your search for a contractor with word-of-mouth: referrals from friends, neighbors, family. And look at online reviews, but take them with a grain of salt.

“They can manufacturer those too,” Main warned.

The State of Utah requires contractors to be licensed, but don’t assume a contractor is licensed just because they say they are.

“People will give you false license, use somebody else’s license,” Main said. “Just give you a false number.”

You’ll find real numbers and real licenses on Utah’s licensing website, which also alerts you to disciplinary actions.

Main’s other advice: Get quotes from multiple contractors. A really low bid can signal low quality. You should not have to pay a big chunk of the job upfront. Main says that is a red flag of financial troubles. And the contract needs to be written and solid with details like payments, materials, schedules. Verbal contracts are no good as people will remember the details differently.

“If you’re going to have to recoup some money if you get ripped off, you’re going to have to go through the courts and a solid contract is what you have to have to help do that,” Main said.

None of this is a guarantee. I’ve reported many times on licensed contractors with good reputation who, for whatever reason, walk away from jobs. If your project has gone off the rails, file a report with the state so investigators like Bobby Main can take your case.

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How to avoid hiring a bad contractor