As a relatively new contractor, you’re eager to prove yourself — but don’t let that cloud your judgment when you’re taking on clients.
The initial meeting between a homeowner and a contractor is usually seen to serve the homeowner’s interests. After all, they want to check you out, get an estimate and see if you’re the right fit for their job.
You, too, need to approach the initial meeting as a “trial run” to see if there are any “red flags” that should warn you away from this particular client. Make a mistake, and you could end up in litigation through no fault of your own.
How to spot a problem client when you see one
There are no hard-and-fast rules that indicate a client is particularly litigious, but there are some sure warning signs. These include:
- They’ve already had bad experiences (and aren’t shy about telling you). Listen carefully. Maybe they really did have a bad experience — and maybe they just had unrealistic expectations. Be especially cautious if they’ve had several lawsuits against past contractors.
- They want to argue over every dollar. Most people want to save money, but if you get the idea that you’re dealing with a penny-pincher who only wants used or second-rate materials, it may be time to walk away. They may blame you for construction defects caused by their choice of materials.
- They seem to know everything about your job. If they start telling you that you charge too much or that they know a “better” way to do the work, you can bet they’re going to be dissatisfied with anything you don’t do their way.
- They’re clearly not concerned with safety, permits or standards. Never agree to work for a client who wants to pay you under the table, doesn’t want to “deal” with permits or urges you to take unsafe shortcuts. You could get blamed down the road.
Despite your best efforts, you may still end up in a construction dispute with a client from time to time. When that happens, make sure that you work with an attorney who can help you avoid complicated litigation whenever possible.