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8 Signs You Have a Shady Contractor

I was minding my business at a friend’s gathering when an acquaintance came barreling into the room. “You will not believe this. I have called him 11 times since 9 this morning, and he has not returned a single phone call!” She was irate and spitting her words. “I have invested so much time and money into my baby, and I can’t begin to think about looking for someone else right now.” Desperation was hanging on her voice like a bad night out with red wine.

Come to find out, the baby she was referring to was the walk-in closet of her dreams. And the man? Her contractor. Apparently, he was not delivering on the promises defined by their contract. He was now avoiding her, the money she had invested held hostage and construction at a halt. She disclosed all this after hanging up and apologizing for bombarding into the room. We forgave her and immediately wanted all the gossip.

When it comes to home renovation projects and dealing with a contractor you’re not always going to get what you bargained for. If you’re starting to feel suspicious of your contractor, grab your magnifying glass and peer through our 8 signs that you have a shady contractor.

1 - They ask for too much money up front. There’s no denying that you’re going to be spending more money than you want, but there’s no reason your contractor should ask for more than what is necessary. You never want to pay for the project entirely upfront. Your contractor should only ask for enough money to get the job started. This is usually less than 50%, depending on the size of the job.

2 - They keep an inconsistent schedule. One of the main inconveniences of home renovations is the noise, a necessary evil in the world of construction. However, perhaps throughout the week you find it to be a little too quiet during the day when you should be hearing the sound of saws and hammers. While the quiet may be nice, it’s also a sign that work is not being completed. You want a contractor who is going to show up and work regularly.

3 - They consume alcohol on the job. Or worse, partaking in recreational drug use on the job site. What your contractor does in his off time isn’t anyone’s business, but there is a level of professionalism that is to be expected while working, especially in your home. This type of behavior promotes a hostile work environment and a potential safety risk that could result in calling 911 for more than one reason.

4 - They’re unwilling to sign a contract. Is anyone a fan of bureaucratic red tape? The reality is, no matter how exhaustive the process may be in agreeing on a contract, it’s what’s going to protect both you and your contractor. You want to get in writing that you are both willing participants and are in agreement on everything from pricing to renovation details before moving forward. A contractor who chooses not to sign a contract should raise a major red flag. Any respectable contractor will have no problem signing one because they have faith in their work and work process.

5 - They never answer the phone. Unless you want to suffer the same fate as so many poor souls before you, look for indications that your contractor is a poor communicator. Contract work is a bidding war, and some contractors will say anything to win the job. If you start to notice that it’s becoming a chore to get a hold of your contractor, you might want to start considering other options. You are the boss here, and a good employee reports to their boss promptly.

6 - They have no work history or portfolio. There is a stark difference between little work history and no work history. If you are weary of your contractor’s experience, you may want to ask who they did their apprenticeship with and ask for proof of work they have done through pictures and references.

7 - They don’t have the skill set for the project at hand. If you’re looking to renovate your bathroom, look for a contractor who has experience and examples of their work on bathrooms. A good contractor may come to you with 15 years’ worth of experience in renovating kitchens, but little in bathrooms. Be sure the contractor you hire is specialized in the exact type of work you are specifically requesting to be done. If your project has already begun, and you’ve become suspicious that the work isn’t matching up to your expectations, it might be time to have a talk with your contractor.

8 - Their attitude stinks. No one wants to deal with a negative person on a frequent basis. You want your contractor to be someone you can trust and rely on for important decisions and opinions. Don’t get in too deep with someone who is just a jerk and is unwilling to work with you.

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