Good Advice About Dealing with Handymen
By Nick Suhr, J.D. and Jane Gregor, RN, BSN
Living in a community like Sun City gives one a sense of security and well-being that can sometimes be risky. Nowhere is it more important to exercise caution than when it comes to hiring people to make repairs in your home. Statistics show that senior citizens are frequently targeted by hucksters and frauds. Why? Because they are easy marks, often willing to accept promises that can end up, when broken, being legally unenforceable. Fear of retaliation can also be major factor in a senior community. Most home repair and “fix-up” jobs do not involve major sums of money, and this fact often deters homeowners from pursuing legal rights or even complaining.
There are many ways to avoid being “taken” by incompetent or unscrupulous service providers, and everything begins and ends with you, the homeowner. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get proof of licensing. This can easily be obtained from the SC Department of Labor by telephone at 803-896-4686 or online at www.llr.state.sc.us/pol/contractors/index.asp?file=laws.htm.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau at 1-803-254-2525
- If you have any questions about or problems with any provider, call the Sheriff’s Department (Officer Bill Murphy) at 803-283-4136
- Get two or more written estimates before the work you need to have done. This is the only way to avoid a “He said He said” situation.
- Make sure the contractor has liability insurance
- Ask for references and try to examine completed jobs by the service person. Better yet, ask around and speak with people who already had work done by the person or company, because this is generally the most reliable source of information, good or bad.
- Never rely on advertising or promotional materials or deal with someone who employs high-pressure tactics or tells you “this job is so easy I’ll only charge less than $!00.00 and I don’t do written estimates for those prices.”
- Make sure you get something in writing and signed that at least describes the work to be done, the time for completion and the payment terms. For small jobs, never pay in advance but only after the work is completed to your satisfaction. For others, hold back at least 1/3 until completed to your satisfaction.
- If you live alone, have a friend or family member with you as a witness when you make an agreement to have someone work in your home.
We are all in this together. If you had a bad experience or were the victim of fraud, the most important thing you can do is immediately file complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Sheriff’s Department at the phone numbers shown above. That’s what being a good neighbor is all about.