How to vet contractors and plumbers for home repairs

The Better Business Bureau says it's already receiving complaints about price gouging by plumbers, as so many people need plumbing and home repairs after the ice storm. 

One way to protect yourself from price gouging is to check online repair cost estimators. HomeAdvisor.com shows the average cost to repair a leaking pipe, for example, is $150 to $350.  

A woman named Deborah in Houston just filed a complaint with the BBB about a plumber, writing, "They only did a temporary repair patch to two small sections of copper ... They charged $811.88 which I now believe to be price gouging."

When choosing a plumber or contractor, experts suggest asking people you know for recommendations and getting bids from three. 

Why is FEMA offering so little to victims of the freeze?

Houstonians whose pipes burst in the freeze expecting to be made whole by FEMA may only receive $400 like one Northeast Houston family.

"You really want to get some competitive estimate, not just the price. You also want to make sure you're agreeing on the scope, which could be a different price because the contractors are offering different levels of service," said Steve Wilson with Hippo Insurance.

Due to the high demand for plumbers, Governor Abbott is allowing out-of-state registered plumbers and qualified apprentices to work in Texas right now.  Check licensing in the state the plumber is from, such as the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, and check sites such as the Better Business Bureau for reviews or complaints.

"Read any customer complaints, or customer reviews and see what past customers have experienced with this particular contractor," said Leah Napoliello with the Better Business Bureau.

Reviews are critical because Texas does not require general contractors to be licensed, only specialized trades like plumbing, HVAC, fire sprinklers, and pump installers.

READ MORE: Plumbers in Texas will no longer need a license

Experts also recommend getting a written contract for the work to be done, the timeline, and warranties for materials and labor.  Don't pay cash or more than one-third of the estimate up front.
 
"Negotiate a percentage of the overall job and make sure you get an overall estimate from your contractor," said Wilson.

And watch out for plumbers and contractors offering services door-to-door. 

"We will typically see instances where a scammer will approach someone at their home and want payment for the job.  They take the money and never return to complete the work whatsoever," said Napoliello.  

Be sure to inspect the work before making the final payment. 

These sites can help you estimate the cost of home repairs:

Home Advisor

Plumbing Cost Estimator

Plumbing Cost Guide

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