Internet Can Yield good info about contractors - Story by Tell Mel

08/02/2010

Internet can yield good info about contractors

This is a great article written by Melanie Payne from the News Press....please e-mail her @ tellmel@news-press.com and let her know you're a proud member of the Quality Service Pros and thank her for sharing such great information.

The best way not to lose money to a sleazy contractor is to not do business with him or her in the first place.

But how do you know whom to avoid?

I have some suggestions. And no, I'm not printing a list of contractors to use. And you can't call me and ask whom I would recommend for any job.

What I will do is tell you how I would go about researching a contractor and his or her company to find out if it's someone I would want to use.

I did this myself last week when my air conditioner was on the fritz.

First, I got a recommendation from someone who had used the company before and was satisfied with their work.

Next, I turned to the Internet.

The Better Business Bureau, bbb.org, gives companies a grade A through F. If a company has a low grade, you can stop right there. Don't use it. But I'd suggest even continuing to check out companies with an A or B grade.

At sunbiz.org, I checked the company's ownership (the BBB sometimes has this, too) and whether the corporation was in good standing. I also searched at leetc.com to make sure the company had a business tax account.

The next step was myfloridalicense.com. There I verified the company had a license in Florida and I got the name of the license holder. You also can check there on the company's disciplinary history.

From there I went to the Lee County Sheriff's Office website, sheriffleefl.org, to check arrest records. I'm big on giving people second chances. Besides, not everyone who has been arrested is guilty of a crime.

But last week, when I looked up a contractor who had ripped off a senior citizen in Estero, I found he had a two-page arrest record that included burglary, assault and forgery. That's a contractor you don't want to hire.

Next, I went to leeclerk.org, the Lee County Clerk of Court's site.
Here, you can look up the court records on the license holder, company owner and the company.
Here, you'll discover financial problems and find criminal, small claims and civil cases involving a company or its owner.

If many people have sued the contractor, I'd steer clear - this could be an indication he or she is ripping off people. Even if the company is suing its customers, it's a bad sign. Why would people they do work for not want to pay?

Another link I used was lee-county.com. When you click on the permitting link, it takes you to a search for licensed contractors.

On the Lee County site, leegov.com/econnect I looked up permits the company pulled for various jobs.
This is the hardest of the searches to do but yields great information. If many of the company's permits expired, it may mean the company doesn't complete work in a timely fashion. The records also show if there are failed inspections which could be an indication of shoddy work. Too many outstanding issued permits may indicate the company is too busy to give timely service.

Doing this background check requires decent Internet search skills. If you don't have them, get a grandkid to play Nancy Drew for you.

Or call the Lee County Public Library at 479-INFO (479-4636) and choose the option "to register for a program."

Every Wednesday this month, the library is holding beginning Internet classes for adults at the downtown library.

I know this seems like a lot of time and effort just to check out a contractor. Even though the company I hired passed my little background check with flying colors, I didn't feel the research was a waste. Peace of mind was worth the time.

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