Homeowners should be cautious when remodeling
July 26, 2006
There are inherent hazards to remodeling a home nails, lumber and other debris lying around, lead paint being chipped off the walls, and potentially dangerous tools ready for Junior to learn how to use all on his own.
But there are precautions to take to avoid such mishaps, and they are emphasized by parents and followed by children. There are other dangers, however, that might not be as obvious, might not get the same attention, but are just as harmful.
When homeowners hire workers to do the remodeling, they are often inviting strangers into their homes and into their lives. These strangers often come and go as they please, with access to bedrooms, bathrooms, basements and back doors. It can only take a moment for a personal belonging to be stolen, or even worse, for a loved one to be kidnapped.
Sgt. Bill Morris of the Park City Police Department said homeowners need to be aware of the dangers of opening their home to workers, but, just like with other facets of safety, there are precautions to take.
"The main thing we urge people to do is, number one, always use a licensed, certified person to do your work," said Morris, who previously worked for the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department Division of Crime Prevention.
"A lot of it is just a common sense thing. Know who you’re dealing with. Use recommendations from friends and check the Better Business Bureau, which isn’t an altogether endorsement, but the people who are providing services who go to the trouble to get licensed are usually the type people you’ll want to work with."
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He also stressed letting neighbors know what is going on so they can watch for any suspicious activity. He said many of the crimes in Park City could be prevented if people were willing to watch one another’s backs and call law enforcement if they did spot anything out of the ordinary.
"Watch out for people doing things out of the ordinary — looking in cars, garages, other areas they aren’t involved in, or pedestrians lurking around mailboxes," he said.
If it’s a major construction project, Morris said, people will also try to steal construction materials and tools.
Scott Dwire, owner and manager of Progressive Construction and Remodeling in Salt Lake City, said that homeowners shopping for a remodeling company should always check into who they’re working with..
"There are several licenses to get in order to be a contractor: a contracting license, which requires testing and an application, a standard business license, which requires another application, and then you can have other licenses as well," Dwire said.
He also said complaints and court findings against specific licenses are tracked and can be viewed through services offered online at http://www.Utah.gov.
"In the remodeling industry you’re working with people’s homes still have people living there," he said. "It’s even more critical in the remodel world for us to know who we have going into a home. One thing we run into is working with subcontractors. Are they just hiring anyone or do they screen employees? And are they practicing full disclosure to us? Those are issues we have to think about. I don’t know if there’s a way to protect yourself against everyone in the food chain, but if you do everything you can then it will help.
"There are things people can do to prevent things from happening, and I’m surprised at how much people don’t care about doing those things. I have single women who want to give me a key to their home. I mean, I’m a good guy and all, but she doesn’t know that. It’s just not wise."
Doug Sebastian, founder of the KinderVision National Child Safety Education Program headquartered in Peru, Ind., said that the risks posed to young children, women and personal belongings are worth the extra effort in finding a reputable company.
"Make sure, to not only ask for references, but also that the company hasn’t had any problems in the past," Sebastian said. "Even ask the question, ‘Do you have any felons or sex offenders working for you?’"
Sebastian will be on The Early Show on CBS on Aug. 2 with Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, to help get the word out on child safety.
"Ed and Lois (Smart) would get people who were down and out but who had some skills and they would employ these people to do work for them," Sebastian said. "This guy, who goes by Emanuel, did one job on their roof, and that’s it, but in that time he saw their girls and targeted Elizabeth."
Sebastian said homeowners having work done should hide valuable items, never leave kids unattended and, if at all possible, never have a female alone while workers are in the home.
"Just don’t take chances," Sebastian said. If something does happen, or even if you just see something suspicious, call the police right away. Report it immediately. Don’t negotiate with the business. But the key is prevention. Find out who you’re inviting to come into your home. It’s not just about workmanship and materials it’s about a lot more than that."
Questions to ask
Do you screen employees?
Are any of your employees felons? Sex offenders?
What times of day will you be working?
What parts of the house will you need access to?
Tell kids to stay away
Keep an eye on children
Ask them about conversations they have with workers
Check licenses on http://www.utah.gov
Take child safety quiz at http://www.Kindervision.org
Give workers a key
Leave the house unlocked