The dust begins to settle. You catch yourself day dreaming about finally cooking and entertaining in your new kitchen. You know you need to inspect everything and there is definitely some cleaning to be done. Of course during the inspection, you notice a couple of “minor” problems – a cracked drawer and several doors that don’t line up. You feel your initial enthusiasm begin to wane as you find more problems – was that the hardware you selected with your designer?
By the time you’re finished, you have quite a list for your contractor to fix. Thank goodness you took the time to check their references in the beginning, especially since you paid them in full when they began the installation.
Flash forward three months
Your contractor fixed a handful of the problems, but not all of them, after “waiting on parts” for almost six weeks. Now, your phone calls go unanswered and your messages unreturned. Responses to your emails are vague and cryptic – “I thought we fixed that problem weeks ago. I’ll look into it.” You just want what you paid for and to have your life, and home, back in order. Where do you turn?
You first call should probably go to your local Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org). The Bureau is a great resource for consumers before they buy, and they can be equally good afterward as well. The BBB will mediate disputes between businesses and consumers and can often help obtain a speedy resolution. Businesses are generally eager to remedy problems once notified by the Bureau because their standing with the BBB can have a big impact on future business.
Your second call might be to Contractors Licensing Board for your state which handles complaints submitted for substandard work – visit www.contractors-license.org to learn more. The Licensing Board will complete a preliminary review of the complaint and then may inspect the project to gather additional information and evidence of problems. The Board may also interview the contractor, the homeowner, and others familiar with the case. The completed investigation will be submitted to a review committee which will determine the level of the infraction and whether disciplinary action is warranted.
If you still need help resolving your issues, you might find that a consumer protection group in your area can assist. These groups are available in many communities throughout the country, and provide lists of recommended businesses and also publicize those on that don’t perform to standards. Many cities also require local business licenses and permits and often have problem resolution departments for situations like this. This is particularly true if your project required building inspections, if the issues make your property unsafe, or if they affect the value of your property.
You may also be able to get assistance directly from the cabinet manufacturer. Most manufacturers warrant their cabinets for one-year and hold their dealers to extremely high performance standards. Manufacturers are very protective of their reputation and will take steps to ensure that their dealers are representing their products in a positive way. Although this can be an effective option, it will often take longer to get assistance than the others.
Problems like the one described here are not common, but they do occur. Protect yourself by thoroughly investigating your contractor before you buy. Make sure they are licensed and insured, and check the expiration dates on both. Generally, contractors that are active in professional organizations and the Better Business Bureau are wiser choices for your project. And if problems do occur, work with your contractor to get resolution. Most are eager to complete their work to your satisfaction and earn your referral.
But if contractor can’t or won’t resolve lingering issues, you now have somewhere to turn.