Knowing this before you choose a general contractor and sign on the dotted line could very well keep you from having a home remodeling nightmare and horror story to share with family and friends.

Ever wonder why everyone you talk to knows someone who has had a home remodeling nightmare or they themselves have had an encounter with the Contractor From Hell?

Well sadly it’s become the norm, almost acceptable and that’s wrong. In fact, it’s criminal. Homeowners should not have to be held hostage by unethical contractors and can do much to protect themselves by researching their potential contractor and understanding what your contract states -and more importantly – what it should state and include.

As for the laws protecting the homeowner, you’ll learn from others who have been through the legal fight, the frustration and realization that the agencies set up to protect homeowners simply cannot do enough to enforce their own laws intended to govern contractors. Contractors frequently violate these laws and get away with it. That is, until somebody bothers to file a complaint.

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Unscrupulous contractors don’t abide by these laws and that’s simply a character issue. Character, meaning negligent, arrogant, deceitful, careless, lazy, and doesn’t give a damn. That’s how they live their lives. The ugly side of human nature and they’re fine with it. Disciplinary actions by regulatory agencies doesn’t deter them from doing it again.

In my humble opinion, the disciplinary action imposed upon these contractors isn’t severe enough to prevent them from breaking the laws or repeating their behavior. It has to really hurt them hard – which for these characters is all about the money – and is the only thing that matters to the unethical contractor. Then we need to disclose and expose these crooks as quickly as possible. Until we can make these changes (via the Legislature) American consumers will continue to be plagued by corrupt contractors.

But find yourself an ethical contractor who knows and insists on quality construction, abides by the construction laws, hires licensed subs and shows up for a full days work on a regularly scheduled basis – and is great at keeping you informed of progress or unanticipated problems – you will be a very happy homeowner when all is said and done. I’ve been there since the earlier dark days, and boy it’s like night and day or I should say heaven and hell!

Know that there are good contractors and bad contractors and it’s pretty much split down the middle from all I have seen and heard over the years. Your job is to stay away from the bad ones, know what your rights are, what your States’ laws dictate when hiring a contractor, and filing a complaint should the situation call for it.

As to the complaint process, that’s another frustration. It does take awhile – forever comes to mind – for the investigative process to move forward and in the mean time, the contractor just moves on to the next job. But not before he slaps a lien on your property. A lien which the majority of the time is without merit and rarely perfected. Such a ruse and one statute of the law that must be changed as it is abused by unethical contractors all day long. And of course, not the intention of the lien laws. You can read more on mechanics lien laws here but be very aware of it and protect yourself in the process.

Right now you may be thinking to yourself how is it that these “ethically challenged individuals” are getting licenses
and too, these so called consumer protection agencies are just a fraud and have no business being in existence. Well, part of me agrees with that conclusion, because there are no checks and balances. Using California as an example, there are just under 300,000 licensed contractors out there working and they don’t have to “check in” with the State. So how is the Contractors Board going to know what each and every one of these guys are doing on a daily basis?

It’s impossible for them to know who and where the unscrupulous contractors are until someone files a complaint. These guys pretty much work autonomously, and they are accountable to NO ONE so what’s to stop them from breaking the laws? The homeowner typically doesn’t know the Contractors Laws UNTIL it’s too late, when they find themselves in a nightmarish hell with the contractor. Then shock, anger and realization sets in.

Shock that the dirt bag did this to you, angry that he-or she-got away with it and BOTH when the homeowner files the complaint (if they even bother) only to find that the agencies in charge of licensing contractors are not as responsive to their case as one would have thought, given the circumstances.

You may even find yourself questioning the motives of the State agency and wonder just who are they protecting?

No matter what State, the majority of consumers who have emailed me over the last seven years consistently state that there is bias towards the contractor or that the office they’re dealing with is “pro- contractor”. And to a certain extent they’re right. Some of these licensing agencies have staff that are just that, sprinkled in with some staff that are “pro-consumer”. While some of the various state regulatory agencies are better at consumer protection than others, all are woefully devoid of being able to truly look out for and protect the consumer. It’s impossible and that’s why we as consumers need to arm ourselves with information about our rights and the laws that govern contractors, so that we know what they can and cannot do.

To be fair, here in California the Contractors State Licensing Board has made some significant changes as a result of some serious flaws in how they previously conducted business. A two year monitoring program that began in 2001 (as mandated SB2029) resulted in some positive changes and many of the recommendations were implemented by the Contractors Board. These recommendations benefit California consumers in the long run, and though the Board has not adopted all of them it’s still a much needed improvement.

There have also been policy changes initiated administratively, as well as changes to the laws passed by the Legislature that offer better protection for consumers. And though some progress has been made in California to better protect the consumer, it’s not nearly enough. You can never do enough to protect consumers from gross, unethical behavior by those conducting business in the State. This after all, is the reason for their existence as Consumer Protection agencies. Reality shows us, however, that there are serious limitations on our governments’ ability to protect American consumers. Yet, from all that I have learned from consumers in other states, the Contractors State License Board in California has been more progressive in working with consumer advocacy groups -myself included- towards reform in the areas of education and protection for the consumer.

All right – now you’ve got a glimpse of what lies ahead; so what does this all tell you?

That it becomes YOUR responsibility to protect yourself. And you do that by arming yourself with knowledge-and lot’s of it- until you can’t stand it anymore, and you understand just how little protection a homeowner has when contracting for a home improvement project.

The purpose of is to help you avoid, in as much as is possible, doing business with unscrupulous, untrustworthy, unreliable, unethical, irresponsible and – once they have your money in hand – unavailable and negligent contractors.

This site contains important information, links and outside resources that can assist you in your research whether you’re just beginning to plan your project or are already knee-deep into a home improvement project. Part of your research is to go to your States licensing agency and check for consumer information and licensing requirements so be sure to check out and visit those links in the site.

I wish you the best of luck! Do your homework and be sure to check out my own encounter with the contractor from hell who, by the way, has become a shining example of the worse offenders of an unethical contractor, according to the State Contractors Board.

If after reading through this information you decide, for some strange reason, it’s not necessary to do all the work, and you choose to pursue your dream of a newly remodeled home anyway-just be sure to keep handy a 2 by 4 that you’ll be needing to whack yourself on the head with every time the “dream” collides with the nightmare.

For I can tell you with much certainty and many head encounters with 2 X 4 planks, that you will find that 2 X 4 to be a much less painful experience than the realities of a home remodeling project gone wrong.

Oh yes, and as they say, Caveat Emptor!

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