Hiring contractor woes

Does anyone have any bad stories of what happened to them because they didn't get a reference and just hired someone?
On a recent episode of "King of Queens", this very thing happened where the contractor pretty much had all the power, and the homeowners had to play the game to appease them since it even takes lawyers forever to get anything from them.
Are contractors this powerful, or are the protection laws that bad?
-- "I haven't got forever, And I haven't got all day Oooh, I don't want my world to stay the same. So where's a magic moment To carry me away". -- Lyrics from Hilary Duff's "I Can't Wait"
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So far I've had three people attempt to fix the leaks in my roof. The last one, who had the most references and was the most expensive, left the roof with the original leaks (leaking less) plus some leaks that hadn't been there before. Working on anyone's roof except your own, or for pay, should be included in the Decalogue. zemedelec
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I think most people who have hired contractors have had a bad story or two. I just had an attic finished off so after using mutiple contractors I've definately had a few bad experiences. In hindsight I think it comes with the territory so it's better to prepare yourself than to try and find the "needle in the haystack" contractor with integrity.
Even after doing the research (references, multiple quotes, knowing enough to know when someone can't do the job) there are two major things you have do to:
(1) Check the working area daily before and after each contractor comes in to check for damage to the area. If it is damaged let them know immediately. DO NOT wait until the job is finished. - I had a whirlpool installed and the acrylic is broken around one of the jets but because I didn't check daily I don't know who whether the carpenter, tiler, or plumber broke it so I have to eat the cost of repair myself.
(2) Unless your job is very standard, or you are very lucky, there will be changes/additions to the work. Make sure you get an itemized quote for parts and labor for all additional work needed. DO NOT settle for the "we'll figure it out later" line and don't allow the work to start until you have the quote.
Most homeowners are at the mercy of contractors because they don't know enough about the work (plumbing, electrical, framing, etc.) to know when the answer they are given is wrong. Another reason why is depending upon the state if work is done than payment is expected. Verbal contracts are binding so if a contractor does the work it is your word against his/hers if you decide to bring it to court. Btw, town building inspectors are great resources for increasing your knowledge base about your project before you choose a contractor.

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I think almost every homeowner has gotten screwed at one time or another. The folks who run our homeowners association have put together a website for our subdivision. One of the more useful pages on the site allows residents of our subdivision to submit opinions regarding repairmen who have worked for them. The subdivision isn't very large (155 homes), but the number of hits to THAT page is remarkable.

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