Tips to find reliable and trustworthy contractors

Reporter: Kellie Miller
Published: Updated:
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WINK News has taken you along on Joe Salvaggio’s journey for more than a week now. Salvaggio lost his wife last year, and his Fort Myers Beach home during Hurricane Ian. He also told WINK News he gave $40,000 to a contractor for home repairs, but many months later, hasn’t seen any progress. 

As our coverage of Joe’s journey and the community’s efforts to rebuild his home continues, we’ve been inundated with messages. Many viewers have recounted similar situations of being left in limbo with incomplete home improvement projects. 

Salvaggio is not the only one in this boat, but his situation has shined a light on the reality of dealing with contractors. WINK Investigates reporter Kellie Miller has been covering Salvaggio’s story, and spoke with the Better Business Bureau for insight. 

Better Business Bureau shares key tips 

“So, the first thing you want to do is always make sure that you’re hiring a licensed professional,” said Bryan Oglesby, Director of Public Relations and Outreach for the Better Business Bureau Serving West Florida. 

“Most construction work that needs to be done on a consumer’s home requires some type of license to do that work. You also want to make sure this contractor is insured, and that they have workers compensation because anyone you let in your home for a job, if they get hurt on the job, and they don’t have the proper insurance, then that liability can put on you as a homeowner,” Oglesby said. 

Not only is it important to hire licensed and insured professionals, but Oglesby suggested checking the contractor’s track record, seeking referrals from friends, family, and other contractors, and using the Better Business Bureau website to assess a company’s reputation and complaint history.

You can also check a contractor’s license through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and make sure it’s current as well as check for complaints.

Additionally, Oglesby discussed common contractor scams, which involve unlicensed individuals collecting payment upfront without intention to complete the job. 

“So home improvement and contractor scams is actually a top scam reported to Better Business Bureau,” Oglesby said. “You want to be very wary about these scam artists, especially when hurricanes come, we call them storm chasers. These are usually out of town companies or people that come in, they see an opportunity to capitalize on work that’s needed, and they take advantage of vulnerable consumers.”

The BBB has a scam tracker tool, sponsored by Capital One and Amazon, for reporting and tracking scams. To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

“Another common complaint we hear from consumers is they hire a good contractor, they do the job right, and they pay the contractor in full but once the job is completed, they now have a lien on their house from the supplier because the contractor didn’t pay that supplier,” Oglesby said. “So it’s very important before you make that final payment to get confirmation from the contractor, get an affidavit, a release of liens, showing that they’ve paid their suppliers in full, and make sure you get that before you make that final payment so you’re not held up with getting a lien on your home because your contractor did not pay their suppliers.”

Another key piece of advice is to never make large payments upfront.

“The most you should ever give for a job is 50 percent,” Oglesby said. “But if you can, you want to pay in installments, either 10 percent up front, and then installments as the job is completed.”

Of course, the payments are dependent on the type of job you’re hiring a contractor for, and the scope of work involved. But ultimately, you should never have to pay for everything upfront.

If a contractor takes your payment without finishing the work, you should notify the BBB, local law enforcement, and your county’s contractor licensing board.

For more information, you can check out the BBB’s tips on hiring a contractor, and 10 Steps to Avoid Scams.

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