There are many fantastic reasons to consider painting the interior or exterior of your home. However, not everyone wants to tackle a job that size on their own. Fortunately, those who don’t enjoy do-it-yourself projects can hire residential or commercial painting contractors to get the job done. But when there’s a market for something, you can be sure there will be people who’ll try and take advantage.
Continue reading to learn how to identify the most common painting scams and what you can do to protect yourself the next time you hire a professional painter.
It’s a tale as old as time; people hire individuals claiming to be professionals only to find out the person has no idea what they’re doing. Unfortunately, by the time they realize it, the damage is done.
You can avoid becoming the target of an incompetent painter by knowing what types of things to look for and what questions to ask. Before signing anything, ask for proof of licensing and insurance. Additionally, it’s a good idea to ask for references from previous clients. This is especially true when working with independent contractors. Finally, look for clues that the person you’re talking to has a legitimate business. For example, do they have business cards, a company car, or clothing bearing their logo?
It’s always a good idea to research a contractor or painting company before working with them, and a reputable company will usually understand your hesitation and go out of its way to ease any fears you might have.
The following scam is also quite common. You hear a knock at your door only to find a contractor standing there, ready to explain why your house needs a new coat of paint. Oh, and lucky you, they happen to have leftover materials from another job and could do your home at a discounted price. Does this sound familiar?
Although it might be a tempting offer, you should know that a reputable painting company will not use leftover materials from one job to the next. Additionally, the cost of materials is typically included in the agreed upon price, so those materials have already been bought and paid for by the previous client.
Contracts are binding legal documents that outline an agreement between two parties and protect both sides in the event of a disagreement. Unfortunately, most people underestimate the importance of a contract, and shady contractors can take advantage of this by purposefully including or excluding information or using vague language that could be misinterpreted.
Painting contracts should include (but are not limited to) the following information:
- Contact information for both the client and the contractor
- A description of the work they will be doing
- Completion date and time frame/schedule for the anticipated work
- A list of supplies that they plan to use and an estimated cost for the supplies
- The exact brand and type of paint they plan to use and the number of coats needed
- A list of services and their estimated costs
- A list of fees and discounts
- A section describing payment arrangements, methods, and how they will handle payments
- Any terms and conditions relevant to the company
- An estimated price for the entire job, as well as a breakdown of what’s contributing to this estimate
Knowing what to look for in a contract will help you avoid contracting scams such as unexpected charges, add-on fees, and refusal to complete work.
Be wary of contractors who ask for full payment upfront. You should not exchange money before work is done for several reasons. For starters, you don’t know the quality of their work. Additionally, most reputable companies have supplies on hand, have accounts with local supply chains, or have the available credit to invest in supplies. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, nothing is stopping the individual from taking your money and not doing any work.
You may create payment milestones allowing you to pay for work in segments rather than all at once at the end of the job or in a lump-sum payment upfront. However, all of this should be outlined in the contract to ensure that you and the contractor are held legally responsible for your side of the bargain.
Looking for ways to reduce costs is not a scam in itself, so long as those savings are passed on to you. However, it becomes a problem when contractors charge clients for supplies they are not using or services they did not complete.
There are several ways that painters might try to cut costs while working on a job. For example, they might charge you for an expensive paint brand but use a cheap brand instead. Another way that painters might try to cheat clients is by charging them for several coats of paint but only applying one coat. This allows them to buy fewer supplies than outlined in the estimate and pocket the extra money. Finally, some painters will water down or mix in cheap paint with more expensive paint to save money and increase their profits.
You can protect yourself by ensuring the contract outlines exactly what type of supplies the painters will use on the job. Additionally, while getting in the way of the contractors is not recommended, it is a good idea to take a quick look at the supplies they’re using to ensure they are the ones outlined in the contract. Finally, document the work done daily to avoid getting charged for services you did not receive.
You may need to make repairs before a company can move forward with a painting job. For example, the contractor might find areas of wood rot along your exterior walls, signs of water damage to interior walls, or mold and mildew problems. In most cases, the contractor can repair these things for an additional fee. Sketchy contractors will often take advantage of a client’s lack of construction-related knowledge by pressuring them to make unnecessary and expensive repairs.
Since it’s not uncommon for a legitimate painting company to suggest repairs, it can be challenging to know when a repair is needed or when you’re being scammed. A good rule of thumb is to watch for scare tactics. A professional company will explain the repair that must be made, show you the damage, explain why the repair is necessary, and give you a complete overview of the job. In comparison, a sketchy contractor will go out of their way to avoid showing you where or why the repair is needed and will often overemphasize the consequences of not repairing the problem.
If you question whether or not a service is necessary, ask for a second opinion. It might require you to bring in an additional contractor, but following your intuition could save you a lot of money in the long run.
It’s important to understand the various ways that sketchy contractors might take advantage of clients so that you can avoid becoming the target of a contracting scam. You can protect yourself from scams by researching the contractor/company before working with them, asking for credentials, having a comprehensive and detailed contract, not exchanging money upfront and keeping a detailed log of the work and supplies being done and used.