Asked & Answered: How to avoid home improvement pitfalls

Updated: Dec. 29, 2020 at 5:14 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - More time spent at home during the pandemic has led to more home improvement projects. But before you jump into your dream renovation, there are some things you should consider.

For one disabled veteran, his motivation for a home improvement project was to stay out of a nursing home. All he needed to do was make his home ADA accessible.

He got a bid, locked in a contract, and then handed over a deposit. That’s where his troubles began.

From the outside looking in, John Kelly Jr.’s home looks like any other house on the block. The only indication of construction is a dumpster parked out front.

But once you go inside it’s apparent.

“Wow!” When is he going to fix things the way they’re supposed to be fixed,” Kelly said.

The walls open. The floors unfinished, and after waiting weeks for a response from his contractor, Kelly noticed another problem and called an electrician.

“He looked at it and he said man, that is right there dangerous.”

By the time Kelly contacted WTOC, he had reached his wits end.

“I served my country. I’m a Vietnam vet. How in the world?”

The Better Business Bureau says complaints like this one are common. But there are things you can do if you’ve reached a stalemate with your contractor.

“Never hesitate to start filing complaints with us or with whoever the licensing is because that gets attention,” said Tom Stephens, with the Better Business Bureau.

Stephens says even before the contract begins there are things you can build into like an estimated start date and completion date to make sure that you’re on the same page.

Stephens says never pay more than one third up front, and once the work begins, only pay for work that has been done.

“If a contractor comes to you and says I need money for materials, you need to find another contractor because if he doesn’t have an account with building service providers in the area then he has some financial issues and you don’t want to get in the middle of that,” Stephen said.

While WTOC was there with Kelly, we made some calls together to sort out the issue and get the contractor’s attention. A copy of his contract showed the electrical work he wanted done is not included.

When WTOC talked to Kelly and the contractor on Tuesday, Dec. 29, the two had come to an agreement. The electrical work is out for bid by Kelly, and there is a plan to finish the work.

Here are some other tips from BBB when hiring a contractor.

Ask for references, ask the contractor for a list of recent jobs they’ve done and ask if you can contact that homeowner.

Verify the contractor’s license and Insurance. You can do that in Georgia by going to the Secretary of State’s website.

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