Consumer Tips & General Information
When Hiring a Plumber
Home improvements and repairs can become costly and are the subject of frequent consumer complaints. When selecting a contractor consider the following tips:
- Get recommendations and references. Talk to friends, family and others who have used the plumber for similar work.
- Get at least three written estimates. Insist the plumber come to your home to evaluate what needs to be done. Be sure the estimates are based on the same work so that you can make meaningful comparisons.
- Check plumber or company complaint records. Contact the Better Business Bureau.
- Make sure the plumber meets licensing and registration requirements. Contact the township to see if plumber is registered.
- Contact your local building inspection department to check for permit and inspection requirements. Be wary if the plumber asks you to get the permit-it could mean the firm is not licensed.
- Be sure your plumber is insured. They should have personal liability, property damage and worker's compensation insurance for workers and subcontractors. Also check with your insurance company to find out if you are covered for any injury or damage that might occur.
- Insist on a written contract that states exactly what work will be done, the quality of materials that will be used, warranties, timetables, the names of any subcontractors, the total price of the job, and the schedule of payments.
- Understand your payment options.
- Don't make a final payment or sign a release until you are satisfied with the work and know that subcontractors and suppliers have been paid. Beware that subcontractors and suppliers can place a lien on your home for bills the contractor failed to pay.
- Pay by credit card when you can. You may have the right to contest the credit card charge until the problems are corrected.
The vast majority of businesses in the township and county provide quality services for consumers at reasonable prices. Inevitably, there are also some disreputable businesses which seek to prey on the unsuspecting. The Better Business Bureau will assist you in making well-informed decisions, as well as, provide easy access to complaint and regulatory forms. Remember, before engaging in a costly decision, check the on-line complaint history. The system contains a five-year history on the business you're inquiring about. Most importantly, look at the disposition (end result) of the complaint.
Also available are a series of educational brochures to assist you in many consumer issues. The Pennsylvania Department of community affairs regulates home improvement repairs and functions as the state's clearinghouse for consumer complaints. They assist consumers with information, protection and complaints, regardless of whether they regulate that particular industry. Upon receipt, they review each complaint and take the following action:
- If the complaint falls within another agency's jurisdiction, it is referred it to that agency
- If the complaint falls within their jurisdiction, they attempt informal mediation to resolve the consumer's dispute and evaluate the business for compliance with applicable statutory provisions
- If a complaint is filed against a business that is not regulated by any federal, state, or local government entity, they attempt informal mediation to resolve the consumer's dispute