How do homeowners find HVAC repair people, roofers, plumbers, landscapers, or cleaning services that are reliable and trustworthy? Sometimes it can feel like a bit of a crapshoot trying to find someone to mow your lawn, clean your pool, or install a new furnace.
You can ask friends and neighbors for recommendations, read reviews on Google until your eyes glaze over, and do all the other due diligence that a savvy consumer should do, and still get taken to the proverbial cleaners. Or worse yet, stuck with a half-finished project but a fully cashed check!
If you have hired an individual or small company to perform a service around your home, but they’ve left you high and dry, here’s how to handle it.
1. First, Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt
Plumbers and housecleaners are people too, of course. Their cars break down, their grandparents die, and they catch the flu. Plenty of hardworking Americans live paycheck to paycheck, so it might be that your landscaper has suffered a financial emergency and had his cell phone service cut off.
It’s even possible that they’ve been seriously injured and hospitalized, or the victim of a natural disaster.
Try not to panic too much at first. If you have more than one way to contact them, reach out by phone and email in case one service isn’t working. Give them a couple of days to return your calls or emails, or show back up to finish the job.
“A reputable company will respond promptly to communications, but disasters do happen,” say the experts at Parsons Roofing, a commercial roofing company in Atl. “Chances are they’re doing their level best to get back in touch with customers ASAP to explain the situation, so don’t jump to conclusions.”
2. Withhold Payment
Depending on the terms of your contract, it might be a good idea to withhold payment if you suspect that you’re being strung along, or that the sole proprietor is just slow to complete the project.
It may also be possible to stop payment on a check. Sad as it may sound, plenty of disreputable workers do ask for payment upfront and then walk away from the “job” — that’s their whole scam.
3. Go Down the Legal Road
When it’s time to escalate the situation, getting legal help might be a solid next step. Contact an attorney and get their advice. In some instances, a strongly worded missive on law firm letterhead might light the necessary fire.
You always have the option of going to small claims court, as well. If the job at stake costs you more than is allowable as a small claim, your attorney may be able to file a lawsuit for breach of contract (among other charges).
4. Contact the Powers That Be
Next, contact the Better Business Bureau, the State Attorney General’s Office, and whatever professional licensing or regulatory agency covers your crooked contractor’s industry. You will probably need to make formal complaints, submit documentation, and so on.
These agencies may or may not be able to help get your money back, but it will feel good to get your story told, learn if there are other complaints that have been lodged against that service provider, and warn other consumers to steer clear of that company.
5. Look into Contractor Recovery Funds
Some municipalities have contractor recovery funds, which can compensate homeowners who have been the victim of fraud or dishonesty on the part of a contractor or other professional. A Google search will point you in the right direction, or ask your attorney.
6. Take Your Story to Social Media
Do you have an account on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks? Reaching out with a social media complaint is usually most effective when it’s a larger company that’s screwed up — they have more to lose from negative publicity.
A small contractor might not even have a social media marketing strategy, or they might very well choose to ignore your post or tweet just like they’ve ignored your calls and emails.
However, it’s worth a shot. Even the smallest of local companies and individuals who are just starting out understand the importance of a solid online reputation, so they just might be motivated by this public shaming to do the right thing and refund your money, or finish the job.
Again, even if this method doesn’t accomplish your goal, it can feel cathartic to warn others away from a scammer.
Article Submitted By Community Writer