Tips for Avoiding Dishonest Contractors

By Karen Nakamura Posted in: BIAImproveRemodelTips

This is part two of a two-part series

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. 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 distressed homeowners who are trying to repair 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 for a planned renovation.

Here are some common warning signs regarding 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 to 50 percent is common, however.

Here are some common warning signs regarding references:

• The contractor doesn’t have a verifiable mailing address for his business.

• The contractor won’t provide references for past work, or the references can’t be reached.

Here are warning signs regarding 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.

Paying attention to these warning signs will help you select the right licensed contractor. To learn more, visit

Karen Nakamura is executive vice president/CEO of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii.