Home Advisors send convicted felon to our house

Home Advisor employs a convicted crook in the neighborhood

You need to fix a leak under your sink. Or perhaps you need your trees trimmed. Maybe you’re even willing to invest $20,000 in a new pool. You need a contractor or specialist to take on your job. Fortunately there are companies available who do a bit of sorting and organizing for you when it comes to finding contractors. These companies find specialists, perform background checks, and suggest the right person for the job – or at least they claim they do.

Skipping the Background Check

People make mistakes. It’s entirely possible for someone to break the law, serve their time and then go on to lead a productive life with a new career. It’s also entirely possible for someone to make their career ripping people off by never delivering the service they claim to provide.

When you are planning to hire a company, you can do different levels of investigation. The first step is usually the Better Business Bureau or a licensing agency, but scammy companies can get around that easily by setting up new names for their existing business. Pool Company A becomes Pool Company B overnight it seems – complete with a blank slate as far as the government is concerned.

The best background check is more intimate – actual referrals from others who have used the company you’re considering. But be careful here as well – the company owner is going to give you happy customers. You want the unhappy ones.

When you’re getting ready to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new swimming pool, it’s worth it to dig deeper into your service provider. If, for example, you search the actual owner of the company – rather than the ever-changing company name, you might find that she has not one, but two, felonies for business fraud. That should be a big clue that she’s not the one to give your money to.

Bad Referrals

There are many referral services that claim to weed out bad contractors using background checks and the like. They don’t always work, however. In this case, one family lost $20,000 to a twice-convicted felon who was allegedly vetted, tested and then referred by a popular home referral company. To add insult to injury, the company apparently then offered the family a buyout - $500 to pretend it never happened.

As you can imagine, the family wasn’t interested.

It’s not just the big jobs that cause problems, however. Another family claims to have experienced $3,000 in property damage, abrasive workers and downright lies from another referral from the same company for tree-trimming services. In this case, not only were the homeowners threatened, but the would-be tree-trimmers stole the family shovel as well.

A huge deal? Perhaps not. But it’s unlikely a truly professional company would do such a thing.

Do Your Own Digging

The most important thing to gain from the bad experiences of others is to do your own research. While it would be nice to rely on a company to eliminate the poor choices, ultimately it’s your money on the line. Ask friends, family and neighbors for suggestions and then do some serious digging. If you can’t find any negative reviews, it looks like you’ve found your contractor!