Background Checks Not As Comprehensive As Customers Are Led to Believe

By Michael Klazema on 7/31/2015
Thinking about renovating your home and hiring a contractor to handle the work? You should use caution when hiring contractors through, according to a recent report from KVUE News. KVUE, an ABC affiliate based in Austin, Texas, recently launched an investigation into the website, which presents itself as a place to "Find a trusted home improvement pro." What KVUE investigators discovered were a number of loopholes or shortcomings in the company's background check policies, as well as customers who felt misled after hiring contractors who hadn't been properly background checked.

Right on the homepage of their website, boast about their background checks, writing, "With more than two million verified pro reviews and one of the industry's most comprehensive screening processes, HomeAdvisor gives you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you hired a pro you can trust." Based on KVUE's report, though, HomeAdvisor may not be digging quite as deep into their contractors' backgrounds as they should be.

The KVUE report revolved mostly around a single contractor in the Austin area. A few years ago, a woman in Austin hired the contractor in question to build her home. She ended up with a house "riddled with problems," such as visibly shoddy paint jobs and blatantly unfinished bathrooms. Another client claimed that the same contractor gave her a 50-year-old propane tank after promising a new one.

A true "comprehensive" background check of this particular contractor would have spotted troubling red flags that likely would have steered HomeAdvisor customers from securing his services. Since 2002, he's been sued 17 times in civil court, usually for claims from customers that he didn't complete work on their homes or from subcontractors who said he didn't pay them as promised. He was also cited by Hays County, Texas after some of his building materials sparked a wildfire in 2006.

HomeAdvisor didn't know about their contractor's legal troubles because their civil background checks don't dig deep. According to KVUE, the site only checks for civil lawsuits and judgments dating back a year from when a contractor signs up to be a part of the service's network. Once the background check has been done, that's it: HomeAdvisor never does repeat background checks on its contractors.

KVUE did note that the site's background check policy for criminal history screenings is a bit more in depth, going back three years prior to the date of application, instead of just one. Still, it's unclear why the background checks for civil judgments are only going back a year, especially since contractors with a history of doing poor work are more likely to have been taken to civil court by a customer than to have been found guilty of a crime.

So what are the options for homeowners who want to use HomeAdvisor to find a contractor? Such individuals might consider digging a little deeper themselves and at least checking the local court records for the contractor if they operate in the same county as the homeowner.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • June 20 Repeat background checks are becoming more common, with companies in India leading the charge. What does this trend look like, and how can employers embrace it now to stay ahead of the curve?
  • June 19

    Every federal job involves a background check of some kind. These background checks and how they are evaluated vary based on job, department, and security clearance level.

  • June 18

  • June 14 Ban the box laws aim to improve opportunities for employment. Could they have the opposite effect instead?
  • June 13 Jacobs Petroleum Products is a regional petroleum company that operates throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland. Apart from their employees carrying much responsibility and have frequent contact with customers, the company’s hiring also tends to be segmented since individual store managers are responsible for hiring talent for their own stores. In this employment landscape, Jacobs Petroleum Products needed a reliable and effective way to screen its new hires for criminal infractions and other red flags.
  • June 12

    The University of Wisconsin System may tweak its hiring and reference check processes. The potential changes come after one of UW’s assistant deans was accused of sexual harassment.

  • June 07 Stories of abuse by coaches in youth sports leagues continue to crop up around the country, but rules and guidelines remain patchy and enforcement is often lacking. The struggle to implement an effective system continues nationwide.
  • June 07 Financial background checks, usually referred to as credit history checks, can be an effective way to find out if a candidate is fit to handle accounts, financial data, and other assets at your business.
  • June 06 The Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute recently commissioned a survey to find out how willing employers were to hire people with criminal records. The study indicates that managers, HR professionals, and employees themselves are becoming more comfortable with the idea of hiring and working with ex-offenders.
  • June 04 Are fingerprint background checks the gold standard for employee screening, or are they overhyped? We look at some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding these checks.