A few bad apples spoil the bunch
Since very recently being mentioned in The Washington Post, our office has been inundated with phone calls from people throughout the DMV area calling in describing issues that they are having with their tiled areas. The majority of the complaints that they have are due to contractors who have done sub par work. One individual who contacted us is a woman in Alexandria who has struck our hearts.
My first call with Ms. M was 2 hours long where she described work that is currently being done on a basement bathroom and what she was saying truly horrified me. Ms. M, in tears, told me how she had been charged $67,000 dollars for her project and that she had already paid $57,000 of that. As she went into more detail I learned that she had hired a contractor that was referred to her by a landscape company that she had hired to do work. Ms. M was so pleased with the quality of the work that the landscape company provided and so when the owner mentioned that she had a cousin who had a general contracting business, she thought surely this would be a good reference.
Ms. M hired the contractor who stated that he had been in the business for over 30 years and he said all the right things so that she felt comfortable enough to contract with his company for her project. What she didn't know was the night mare that she was about to go through.
The contractor would not be doing the work. Moreover the person that would be doing the work is a subcontractor.
Permits that were pulled were not pulled for the actual work that was being done, but for lesser work that would not require as thorough of an inspection.
The individual that was actually doing the work had only done 3 bathrooms in his entire career. Hardly an expert.
When Ms. M started questioning certain aspects of the project that appeared to be incorrect the contractor told her she was being difficult.
After Ms. M started to have more concerns she then contacted us after seeing us mentioned in The Washington Post. We came out and found numerous issues with her project and did some research on the company she had hired and found that the contractor that she hired was in fact not licensed in Virginia and there DC license had expired.
After having inspectors come out it was found that the work that had been done had not be completed to code and that the permits that were pulled were done by a completely different company.
There were multiple individuals involved in the defrauding Ms. M, who, I should add, is a member of the elderly population who are highly vulnerable to this sort of predatory behavior.
Though the elderly are extremely affected by these sort of scams, the fact is that the public in general are vulnerable to this issue, especially in the DMV area. We are contacted constantly where individuals have had work done and after a year or less it begins to fail. The consumer hires companies/contractors to do work, thinking that they are going to get a quality job. Some consumers will do their due diligence checking out the company's reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc. not knowing that many of the reviews are fake. Did you know that there are companies that can be hired to bury negative reviews? These companies are oversees and have individuals that have fake profiles and they write positive reviews for businesses who have negative reputations. So when the consumer does their due diligence by checking out the company's reviews, they see dozens, sometimes hundreds of positive reviews, which are in fact, fake.
So the consumer gets duped. You, the consumer need to protect yourself and the investment you are making in your home. Below are a few ways that you can ensure that the company that you are hiring is above board.
Definitely check out their reviews. In some cases you can contact the reviewer directly to ask questions. For example, on Yelp you can click on the reviewer's name and send them a direct message.
You also need to ensure that the contractor you hire is indeed a licensed Virginia contractor. In Virginia any job that is over $1000 requires a contractor's license. Additionally the company/contractor must include their license number on their quotes, invoices and contracts. You can lookup the contractor on the Department of Professional Occupational Regulation to make sure that the contractor is in good standing. See link below. https://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup
Ask who will be doing the work. Will the work be done by subcontractors or employees?
Make sure that there is an official start date and end date on your contract. Of course there are unforeseen circumstances, but generally speaking a contractor should be able to provide a schedule for the scope of work.
Make sure that if permits need to be pulled that you receive a copy of said permits.
Ensure that the contractor is working within their licensure. A general contractor cannot do all contracting. In Virginia you must have a specialty designation in their field. For example a painter cannot do electrical, plumbing, HVAC work.
Make sure that the company/contractor carries liability insurance. You can even ask for a Certificate of Insurance (COI) prior to the start of your project.
Not all contractors are created equal. Some are better than others and price alone should never be the deciding factor as to which contractor you use. At the end of the day quality, professionalism and reputation speak volumes and it will show from the moment you contact the company to the end result.
As for Ms. M, thankfully she now has legal counsel pursuing the contractor. But, she has been left without a finished project and out a considerable amount of money until she has her day in court. The job will have to be re-done, but at least she has found us and we are so pleased to be of service to her and make sure that she receives excellent customer service and a beautiful end result.