Avoid handyman horror story. Take care when hiring.

Hiring someone to do home repairs is serious business.

Hiring someone to do home repairs is serious business. Proceed cautiously.

Home repair experiences don’t get much worse than what happened to a suburban Boynton Beach woman who was allegedly brutally beaten by an air conditioning repairman a week ago.

But every day homeowners open their doors to handymen, electricians, plumber, exterminators and others for work they need done.

Although there’s no way to make sure nothing ever goes wrong, even when dealing with a reputable company recommended by friends or neighbors, there are precautions homeowners can take.

That includes never hiring someone who happens to knock on your door,  someone you happen to meet at the paint store, or who solicits your business by phone.

Read what happened last year to a 97-year-old North Palm Beach woman who fell for a scammer claiming to be with Florida Power & Light.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends checking with friends, neighbors or co-workers about who they’ve used. If possible, take a look at the work done and ask about experience. What was the quality of the work? Did the original estimate change?  Did the workers clean up or leave a mess?

Look for an established company whose record and reputation you can check out, the FTC advises.

Ask the company if they run criminal background checks before hiring someone, and how long the person they’re sending to your home has worked there. Of course, the company could say it has checked everyone out when it has not, and someone who has never committed a crime could decide to steal something.

If you’re hiring a one-man operator, it should be only someone recommended to you by a friend who used them. Ask for more references and actually check them.

Get a written estimate if possible. Some charge by the job; others by the hour. Is there a minimum charge? Make a list of what needs to be done.

Obtain the worker’s full name and street address so the person can be located later. Ask to see a photo I.D.

Handymen are required to have a “business tax receipt” from the county or city where they are working. Ask for that and ask to see a current insurance liability certificate.

If possible, have two adults present the first time the worker comes into your home.

Look at sites you trust that post ratings and reviews, the FTC advises. Do people seem to have similar experiences,  good or bad? You can also check out a contractor’s online reputation by searching for the company’s name with words such as “scam,” “rip-off,” or “complaint.”

Check for qualifications, such as licensing.

Don’t hire a handyman to do major home repairs. For those, you need a certified contractor. In Palm Beach County there are more than 60 construction trades that require licensing. “Handyman” isn’t one of them, but electrical worker, drywall, air conditioning, roofing and many more do require specific licensing.

Go to pbcgov.com/pzb/Constractors to find out whether the work requires certification.

Check to see if any complaints have been filed  with the Better Business Bureau at 561-842-1918 or seflorida.bbb.org/Home.aspx and Palm Beach County Consumer Affairs at 561-712-6600 or pbcgov.com/publicsafety/consumeraffairs.

 

 

 

 

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