Complete a thorough review before hiring any contractor

By Angie Kendel

As a professional who works with homeowners designing and renovating their homes, we hear a lot about people’s past renovations. I cannot stress how critical it is to do your due diligence before hiring a contractor.

It is hard to find someone who is reputable and operates with honesty and integrity. Consumers are frustrated and I do not blame them. As a consumer, what are your options?

Don’t be fooled by appearances. Belonging to associations does not necessarily mean a company operates with honesty and integrity. We regularly get complaints about a company with an A+ certification from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). This company has a long history of lawsuits with the Court of Queens’ Bench with both vendors and with customers. As I understand it, the BBB policy is that a company would not have their rating effected unless a judgement in Queen’s Bench was issued against them in the last 3 years, and it was not honored by the company. However, they could have multiple lawsuits without it effecting their A+ certification.

I have suggested the BBB provide a direct link on a companies’ BBB Profile page to the Court of Queen’s Bench so consumers who are trying to do their due diligence have all the information they need available to make an informed decision.

An elderly couple contacted us after having a bathroom renovation done. It was not what they were expecting and they were not happy. They tried to meet with the contractor who threatened them with a lawsuit if they posted a negative review online. The couple’s son is a police officer. When he called the business owner about “uttering threats” to his elderly parents, the owner quickly backpedalled.

In September, we were contacted by a family who needed a wheelchair ramp built. Their son was in the hospital and could not be released home until a wheelchair ramp was in place. They had paid another contractor in July to build a ramp. He had not done so and would not return their phone calls. A deposit is standard. A partial payment for materials is normal. However, please, never, never, never pay for a job up front!

Complaints can be made to the Manitoba Home Builders Association, if the contractor is a member. They can also be issued to the BBB, if the contractor is a member.

You also have the right to post reviews online, as long as you honestly state your experience. The company will also have the opportunity to respond to reviews.

However, I would not base my decision to work with someone based on online reviews. We were working with a company specializing in search engine optimization services. Did you know a company can actually purchase positive online reviews? I never knew that! I couldn’t get over the extent of deception involved in this practice!

As the internet has grown and evolved, the lack of regulation has affected how many of us perceive things. Just because we see something online, doesn’t mean it is so. A company can post pictures of any renovation, it doesn’t mean it is their work and buy reviews! Creating a company image is simple. Building a reputation takes more effort.

What is the best method of screening a company? Check Court of Queen’s Bench name search registry. When I was a Property Manager, we always pulled an individuals’ credit report to look for judgements against them. Past behavior is a strong indicator of future behavior. When you apply for a loan or purchase a new car, people want your history. If you are trusting people with your home and your money, find out their history! Just because someone belongs to an association or has positive online reviews, doesn’t mean what it should.

Another indicator of a good company is to ask how they dealt with a bad customer experience. We will fix a problem at our cost. We hold our staff and our company accountable. People make mistakes. If they are prepared to acknowledge and correct them, that is half the battle and someone I want to work with. If they try to hide mistakes or send blame elsewhere, that is not someone I want to work with.

Every industry has people and companies with good and bad business practices. As much as we try to hold our industry accountable and operate within a code of conduct, unfortunately not everyone operates this way. However, there are many companies who operate at a high ethical standard. This doesn’t mean mistakes or problems do not arise. It does mean that we hold ourselves accountable and take appropriate action to rectify problems.

As an owner, we set the example and the tone our company operates by. It is up to each of us to hold ourselves, our company, and our staff to the highest standards that define our business.