By Marc Mazzei, President
Southern Tier Home Builders & Remodelers Association

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that after a natural or man-made disaster, there are people
who will try to profit from a community’s misfortune. Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes,
earthquakes, wildfires, windstorms and other disasters can destroy lives and property
without warning. Sadly, in the wake of the tragedy, unscrupulous contractors often flock
to an area to take advantage of the distressed home owners who are trying to repair the
damage or rebuild their homes.

But a fly-by-night contractor is one disaster you can prevent if you pay attention to some
common warning signs. In fact, it makes sense to look for these signs when you are
evaluating any potential contractor, whether it’s for post-disaster repairs or a planned-for
renovation to your home.

Here are some common warning signs:

Price and payment

· You’re told you have to sign the contract today to get the quoted price, and that if
you sign later the price will be higher.
· You’re asked to pay the full cost in advance, before work begins. Paying a deposit
of anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent is common, however.
· You’re asked to pay cash to a salesperson instead of a check, money order or
credit card to a company.
· The salesperson says you’re getting a special low price because you’ve been
“chosen” as a demonstration project.
· The contractor asks you to sign over your insurance settlement check to him
instead of paying him directly.


· The contractor doesn’t have a verifiable mailing address for his business.
· The business has complaints that have not been resolved against them with the
Better Business Bureau. You can find the nearest Better Business Bureau location
· The contractor won’t provide references for past work, or the references can’t be
· The business has a bad review – or doesn’t even appear – on consumer websites
such as Angie’s List (

Contract and completion

· You’re told that “a contract won’t be necessary.” Make sure you insist on a
complete and clearly written contract signed by you and the contractor.
· You’re expected to make final payment before the job is completely finished and
you are fully satisfied with it. Find out if any of the work requires city or county
inspection, and make sure that is done and you have paperwork to prove it before
you make the final payment.

Paying attention to these warning signs will help you select a contractor who will do
quality work, and stand behind it. To learn more about finding a reliable contractor with
an established business in our community, contact Southern Tier Home Builders &
Remodelers Association at or 607-785-9285.