(NNPA)—Dear Gwendolyn: Last winter I experienced roof damage to my house. Because my insurance deductible was more than the cost of repair, I did not file a claim. Instead, I sought the service of a contractor. I did not have him sign a contract. When the job was completed, I paid him cash in full. Two weeks later he returned drunk, using profanity and swearing that I never paid him. It was a frightening ordeal. Since my mother taught us to pay a fool, again he was paid.


Gwendolyn, my regular contractor was having surgery and not available. Therefore, I was desperate for someone because I did not want the damage to cause a leakage into my house. What did I do wrong? This con answered my ad in the neighborhood shopper newspaper. It is unbelievable how people are taken advantage of—and the law doesn’t seem to care.—Susan

Dear Susan: You are wrong. The law does care, but people like yourself don’t do your part. First of all, no job is too small that a “contract” is not needed. And, never pay anyone without having a signed receipt to state payment received. I personally managed the complete building of my own house. I will share with you what I learned to do and what not to do. (1) If the repairs are at an address where you do not reside, then never give the contractor the key to the house or renovation project. Too often the contractor sends someone else and never checks when the project is completed; 2) Make a contract and have the contractor read it back to you—not so much to see if he/she understands, but to verify if the contractor can read; 3) Check the boards at large stores that sell building supplies. Usually, people who leave their card there are good. When stores are told of a complaint, the company or individual’s card is removed; 4) Purchase the material to be used. This voids contractors getting more than is needed—and selling the overage to someone else; 5) The Internet is a source to find reputable workers and their credentials can also be checked on-line; and 6) Get a referral from someone who had a good experience.

Susan, this is the most important of all: Now think about it. The best way to know if a contractor is shady is when they’re asked to give a quote, the reply is “O…, I’ll do you right!”

(Got a problem? Don’t solve it alone. Write to Gwendolyn Baines at: P.O. Box 10066, Raleigh, N.C. 27605-0066, or e-mail her at: gwenbaines@­hotmail.com or visit her website at: http://www.gwenbaines.com.)

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