How to Avoid a Renovation Nightmare

Nobody ever intends to hire a shoddy contractor, but it often doesn’t take much for a home renovation project to go awry. The potential woes are many: poor workmanship, countless delays and a bill that seems to keep growing. Or worse yet, a contractor who takes your money, doesn’t finish the job and then disappears.

Complaints filed against home improvement contractors rank among the top five complaint categories year after year in New York City, according to the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs. In 2017, there were 1,116 complaints filed against contractors and $1.5 million in fines issued.

“There’s been a slight decrease in the number of complaints since 2016, but it’s an ongoing problem,” said Lorelei Salas, the consumer affairs commissioner.

So what can a homeowner do to find a good contractor — and there are many hardworking, skilled tradesmen out there — and avoid a renovation nightmare?

Alan Goldman, left, and Terri Goldman hired a contractor to renovate a bathroom in their house in Niskayuna, N.Y., but although the contractor was paid more than $11,000, he never finished the job.Credit…Preston Schlebusch for The New York Times