Even if you know a contractor, avoid paying upfront

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

It's a good rule of thumb for most contracting jobs: Don't pay much upfront; pay when the job is finished, but that rule can get tricky if you have previous experience with the company.

We've warned consumers time and again not to prepay strangers for work like painting and landscaping; always pay at the end. Even if you've used the contractor before, with great results, you don't know what changes may have occurred in their life. So stick to the rule.

Carol Banks has been doing some unexpected landscaping herself after hiring a small contractor called Matt and Jr's. Banks says she used the owner, Ignacio Gomez, a few years ago on a bigger project.

"I couldn't have asked for anything better, it was done meticulously, and it was done in two weeks," Banks said.

Banks says she had no reason to expect anything different this time so she felt confident giving Gomez $1,500 upfront to start the two-week job. But this time, things were different. Banks says within a few days, Gomez' crew started to dwindle and then no one would show at all.

"He would say he was coming on this day and then he wouldn't show, he wouldn't call, he wouldn't text," Banks said.

Banks says Gomez did some work, like removing a tree, but the job was far from done. Banks says the contractor wouldn't respond to texts, delays continued and the two-week project dragged on. 

"Back on August 1st, he said he would be done and completed with the project and here we are in October," Banks said.

After I got involved, Gomez apologized for the delay and finished the job in just a few days. The finished product looks amazing and Banks loves it. But she's also learned why you should avoid big upfront payments to contractors; even those you've worked with before.

"It's not something you want to do, because things in their life change, everything changes," Banks said.

Gomez tells me what changed in his life was a sick family member in Mexico who later died. He said the crisis took up a lot of his time, but in the end he got back on track and did a great job for Banks. She is very happy with his work.

Another way to avoid paying much upfront is to buy the supplies yourself. You put them on your credit card and the contractor picks them up at the store before they come to your home.

Remember, you don't know what's going on in someone's life at any given time. Pay when the job is done.

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