Avoiding contractor disputes


MAROA -- Imagine putting money down for home repairs, and then the contractor starts the job and never finishes. We brought you the story of an elderly Maroa woman who says it happened to her.

But nearly all of it can be avoided with one simple step -- a signature. And you can stay clear of contract disputes by choosing the right contractor.

Unfinished siding, exposed wood paneling, insulation peeking out -- for nine months, it's how Hilma Ridgley's house has looked after hiring contractor Phil Harbin to fix the hail damage on her home.

"They're all asking me when it's going to be done," Ridgley said of her unfinished house.

"I'm not doing nothing until I get some money," Harbin said.

Harbin says he started the job after paying for some materials out of pocket. He says he was reimbursed some, but never got the rest of his check. So he stopped showing up.

"She was calling me and I kept telling her, you gotta get money from the insurance company because I'm not forking any more money out," Harbin said.

But somewhere along the job, something was misunderstood between the contract documents.

"The most common problem I see ends up being a communication problem," said Jason Dolby, agent for The Group Insurance Agency in Springfield.

Dolby says contract disputes can be common. Your insurance agent has a list of preferred contractors, but they allow you to choose who you want for repairs.

"Just make sure you pick a reputable contractor," Dolby said.

That means asking for references and checking up on them. And being sure all terms are clear.

"After you can get everybody to talk and be on the same page before the work starts," said Dolby, "most of the time, there's no issues."

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