Homeownership is often described as the cornerstone of the American dream, but the reality of owning a home involves facing the constant need for maintenance. Most homeowners have limited tolerance for “do it yourself” work, from general upkeep to remodeling and large-scale renovations. Professional contractors ideally ensure a high standard of work and safe methods — but the cost is always an issue. Finding a valuable, experienced contractor is not always easy.
Websites such as HomeAdvisor aim to make it easier for homeowners to connect with the professionals they need to provide the services they want. Since these contractors will work inside homes and around properties, they must undergo a criminal background check before listing on the site. Otherwise, homeowners would have no way of knowing who they were about to invite through their front door.
While HomeAdvisor advertises that it carries out an extensive contractor background check, some homeowners have had startling and alarming experiences with contractors. Those contractors, it was later revealed, did have criminal convictions in their past.
According to a report, Chicago-area homeowners hired a man from HomeAdvisor to carry out some work on their property. While there, the contractor suffered a mental health episode and began breaking furniture and windows. After the incident, which caused more than $10,000 in damages to the home, the owners learned that the contractor had prior felony burglary convictions of which HomeAdvisor seemingly had no awareness.
Similarly, homeowners in Arizona and Nebraska reported that they, too, had interacted with contractors who had extensive felony criminal records going back decades. Those individuals performed substandard work, leaving homeowners to fund the necessary repairs and improvements.
HomeAdvisor claims the issue stems from the extent of its “lookback period” for background checks, which only reaches back to seven years. To some extent, this can be a limitation of background checks based on local law or state record maintenance requirements. The FCRA establishes a 7-year lookback period, which many states use as a baseline. Some states set a hard cut-off at seven years, while others may report convictions dating back farther with no time limit whatsoever.
The company said in a statement that it constantly refines its background check process and quickly responds to concerns reported to them by consumers. Unfortunately, that often means letting homeowners assume the risk and waiting to act until after the fact. Some of the old methods may still prove best for homeowners looking to hire a contractor — seeking word of mouth recommendations, verifying licenses, and perhaps even ordering your own contractor background check with their consent.
Leaving the vetting in the hands of third parties can make it easier to find someone to work on your home quickly. However, there are risks to consider in light of the experiences some HomeAdvisor users have had. It is always worth thinking carefully about those you’ll allow access to your home.