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I should have written this article about three months ago, but the advice is good for anytime of the year.

Spring brings people to Siouxland from other parts of the country, looking for work to do at your home - from coating your driveway to trimming your trees to doing repairs to your house.

As with anything, there are honest people and then there are those who aren't. Some are so bad they will ask for money upfront to buy the materials, then you never see them again. Then there are those who say they did the work, but the work they did was poor. Throughout my years in business, I have seen paint used to repair a roof and have seen names of local companies used as part of scams. I have seen black paint used on a driveway, then called a layer of asphalt. Just a few years ago, an elderly local gentleman paid some people to paint the outside of his home. They only did the lower half of the two-story structure, then disappeared.

When you are looking for a contractor to do work at your place of business or home, it's best if you do some research on the companies you are inviting to give you an estimate. One good resource is the Better Business Bureau - as a consumer, you do not have to belong to use their service. Furthermore, if an issue does arise the BBB will step in and help you resolve it. The BBB keeps files on companies so it can report to the consumer when asked what kind of history the company has in resolving problems. I recommend them over Internet services because they actually help the consumer. I am not aware of Internet services stepping in to help; they only allow you to post a review. Plus, some reviews are inaccurate and a company can take down bad ones.

Part of your research needs to include the contractor's insurance. The contractor should carry copies of their certificate of insurance and give you one. As a consumer you need to call the carrier and ask if the company's insurance is current. It is not uncommon for a business to buy insurance and not keep up with payments. If someone gets hurt on your property as work is being done and it is the fault of the workers, or if somebody doing the work gets injured, you may not be covered. That means money out of your pocket if your insurance does not cover it or the contractor's insurance has lapsed.

Home improvement companies should either come to your home with samples of styles, colors, and types, or invite you to their showroom and/or office. This gives you an opportunity to get to know more about them and might give you a hint about whether they are here today and gone tomorrow. If they invite you into their truck as their office, run the other way. Some contractors, believe it or not, do not show their customers samples of anything, they just send them a quote. Before signing a contract, be sure it includes tax, material and labor. Surprisingly, many quotes do not, and the consumer is shocked when they get their bill. It is imperative that you read the quote and what it covers before signing. Make sure it has in it what you want done. You would be surprised how common it is that quotes lack significant details.

Storms bring storm chasers from not only other parts of the state, but other parts of the country. Many times they do not do all of the work they say they are going to do and sometimes they damage your property and do not repair it. If work is inferior, you might have to pay more money for the work to be redone because you can't get the ones who did the work to come back and fix it. Believe me, it happens. Personally, I know of property owners who this happened to last year after a small hail storm hit part of the north side of Sioux City.

Another thing some contractors will offer to do is cover your insurance deductible. That might sound like music to your ears because most deductibles are a thousand dollars or more. Unfortunately, in today's world it is considered unethical and against the law. Why? Well, insurance companies see the homeowner's insurance policy as a contract between the homeowner and the insurance company. The homeowner is responsible for paying the deductible and the insurance company pays the remainder of the repair bill. So let's say the insurance company figures a repair at $9,000, the contractor says to you that he/she will do the work for $8,000, and your deductible is $1,000. If you do not report the difference to your insurance company, it is seen as fraudulent because you did not pay your deductible. The contractor could be viewed as having "paid" the customer a thousand dollars for allowing him or her to make the repairs, in which case the consumer is committing fraud by cheating the insurance company out of the deductible. If the contractor inflates the price to $10,000 and does the repair for $9,000, again the homeowner isn't paying the deductible. Knowingly misrepresenting an estimate to allow for an increase in a carrier payout is insurance fraud.

Buying locally helps. Knowing your contractor and their place of business, and how long they have been in business, is important information. In today's world, we as consumers can't be too careful.

Know who you are going to contract with to do your work.

Next week: Al Sturgeon

Charese Yanney of Sioux City is owner and managing partner of Guarantee Roofing, Siding and Insulation Co. She serves on the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission, the Iowa Economic Development Authority Vision Iowa board, the Missouri River Historical Development board and the Siouxland Initiative Executive Committee.


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