Darlene Anderson, a 90-year-old resident of St. Petersburg, recently needed some home improvement work performed on her Canton Street house. She turned to a man working in the area because she believed him to have performed work for her neighbors. Richard Niger performed the painting and plastering work that she wanted. She gave him a check. Shortly thereafter, Anderson says, Niger returned to her house and asked for a second check, saying he had accidentally put the first one through the washing machine. Anderson wrote a second check. Niger cashed both of them.
Anderson noted that “I had warned him a number of times over the months that I was going to the police.” Finally she did.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said that unlicensed contractor scams are common in the county. The man accused of preying on Anderson is among 20 who were arrested during Pinellas County’s effort to respond to this form of crime, Operation Nailed.
Given these local concerns with hiring a legitimate contractor, here are three primary tips from the FTC on how to do so successfully:
Get Perspective & Check Credentials
Speak with friends or family members who have used a landscape contractor. Look through a portfolio of their previous work. Check sites that list ratings and reviews, and search their company name with the word “scam” to pull up online complaints. Check how many years the business has been active. Look to see that the landscape contractor is licensed and bonded.
Get a list of references. Ask about the number of projects performed in the past year, the types of permits that are required, the insurance they carry, and whether they will use subcontractors – in which case, you want to check subcontractor insurance and licensing too.
Check the Contract
A standard agreement with a contractor will include the following:
- full contact details and license number
- projected start and finish dates
- payment schedule
- contractor’s responsibility to acquire permits
- treatment of any change orders (adjustments to the project, which could in turn influence the final cost)
- detailed material list
- warranty information
- specific responsibilities of the contractor
An Experienced, Fully Licensed Landscaper
Are you looking for competent and credible landscape contractors in Pinellas County? With landscaping and irrigation as with any other service, it is critical to know that your choice is credible. With over 20 years of experience, AtRidge is fully licensed and certified for your landscaping and irrigation needs. See our story.