See above under air conditioning
How do I protect myself from bait and switch contractors?
The number one thing you can do is insist upon a city or county permit. The only reason to skip the permit process, it’s required by law, is to skimp on materials and skip on labor. Believe me when I tell you that their are many areas where labor and materials can be skimped on, all to your disadvantage.
Look at the Fine Writing.
Most contracts have so many exclusions that the warranties and guaranties are worthless. I recently saw this line in 10 point type on the back of a re-pipe contract: “Customer accepts that should any provisions of the estimate on the front side of this contract not be accepted in full and paid at the time of completion that any and all warranties and guarantees are void.” The front of contract was for a re-pipe of a home for $15,300 and included an additional estimate for a tank less water heater for $8250 and a water pressure regulator for $325. If the customer does not accept the tank less water heater and the water pressure regulator, they have no warranty on their re-pipe.
Never use a big box retailer air conditioning
You really can’t anyhow. Guess what. None of the big box retailers actually perform the work for you. They merely charge a percentage of the contract price, usually 15%, from the contractor that sells and installs the equipment. Home Depot has never installed a Trane Heater here in Orange County. Lots of other companies have. Most companies that work for the big box retailers give up working for them after few months. They foster a ruthless corporate environment and they care nothing for anything but the bottom line. If you have a contract by one of the big box retailers you really should read the fine print. By accepting the contract you given up all rights to sue or collect a single penny from the big box retailer. They legally wash their hands of you and you are merely purchasing the advertising service from them to connect you to this other contractor. Is that what you really thought you were buying? Guess what kind contractor uses a big box retailer? They are typically new contractors or contractors that have been unsuccessful in garnering work for themselves. They have next to no repeat business. They are here today and gone tomorrow. Its a big box revolving door.
The State of California mandates that all new construction in homes come with a mandatory 4 year warranty against obvious defects (defects you can see, hear, feel, smell) and a 10 year warranty against latent or hidden defects (typically structural, water leakage, etc.). The problem with this is that new construction, obvious if it’s new home, has never been defined. Is installing a water heater new construction? The problem with the 4 year obvious defects warranty is that small claims court only goes back 2 years with a limit of $7,500. You could have the case heard by the contractors license board which has a $25,000 limit and they will address the 4 year and the 10 year warranty provisions, but most cases are complicated and the board really wants to see bad contractors, not a latent defect that may or may not have been the fault of the contractor. Chances are your case will not prove gross negligence and the contractor won’t have to pay. You could sue in civil court, but the only real winners in that type of action are the attorney’s that will bleed you dry and leave you with nothing or less than nothing.
So, what do you do?
Make sure the contract specifically states that you can change your mind for the first year. We call it our 365 day test drive or the ‘I want think it guarantee.’ This takes all the guesswork out of picking a quality plumber. It eliminates all the fine print, no matter what it says, you are in charge. At anytime during the first year after the installation, you can simply ask for your money back and we’ll give it back to you. Complete details of this fantastic warranty are on the agreement and in writing. Never a lawsuit is needed. Why? Because you can send the contract and the request to our bonding company and they will have to pay you if we don’t. We are required by law to live up the terms and conditions of our agreements and if we fail to do so, the bonding company steps in. You are in charge and isn’t that the way it ought to be?