Hiring a contractor? Homework can avoid getting burned

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Ramona Edwards-Griffin needed a lot of work done on her east side property, and says a contractor went out of his way to help.

“When he came in, he did a lot of work for me. Sometimes he came in and did stuff for nothing.”

That convinced Edwards-Griffin that Joe Doering, owner of Pipes Plumbing, was going to do right by her. She and her husband Doering, nearly $25,000 to fix up her property on Broadway.

But though she says Doering did do some work, “Sprinkler system needs to be put in. My furnaces need to be finished. The water ducts need to be put back in, my windows need to be put up.”

Edwards-Griffin had planned to convert the former storefront and dance hall to a place for helping young people turn their lives around, but for now those plans are now on hold.

For all her aggravation, Edwards-Griffin had Doering arrested, but when she went to court, she discovered, “he had scammed other people.”

When she went looking for Doering, neighbors told her he has skipped town.

Assistant Attorney General for Consumer Frauds James Morrissey tells News 4 that as home improvement projects begin in the spring, they begin to see a lot of contractor complaints.

Most often, the contractors are not finishing the job they are getting paid for, and many times they have already been paid in full, which Morrissey says, removes the incentive for the contractor to follow-up.

“Pay as little as you possibly can upfront, and save as big a payment as you can for the completion of the job,” he advises.

Before hiring a contractor, Morrissey says you have to do your homework, then make sure you get at least three bids, before deciding who will get the job.

“Find out who that contractor is, what is going to be the start date, what is going to be the completion date, what materials is the contractor going to use.”

Too often homeowners believe the law will step in and protect them from crooks posing as contractors, but Morrissey says criminal charges are rarely filed against wayward contractors, so you have to be the cop when hiring a contractor.

“People buy cars, they do research – a tremendous amount of research in buying cars. They spend the same amount of money on a contractor but won’t do the research on that contractor,” says Morrissey.

He adds it is important that you pay as you go – what are called “progress payments” – so if the contractor doesn’t finish the work, you can hold back the money to hire another contractor.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has other home improvement tips, and for help dealing with a contractor, you can call the Consumer Hotline at 853-8404.

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