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Watchdog column: When getting fence repaired, do your homework

July 3, 2012 at 2:03 a.m.

Joann Ehlert's first fence was facing the wrong direction, had uneven boards and crooked posts.

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BY KATHLEEN GRONES

Joann Ehlert, an 80-year-old Victoria widow who lives in the Cimarron subdivision, needed a section of her backyard fence replaced.

Last fall, she hired South Texas Fence and Deck Restoration, a Victoria fence company owned by Phillip Johns, to do the work.

A one-page contract was drawn up that specified the estimate at $800, the basic job to be done, and required that all old fencing materials be hauled away at completion of the work.

Johns and one assistant completed the job within two days, and Ehlert paid them $800 cash.

After the job was completed, Ehlert wasn't satisfied with her new fence. She felt that it wasn't built to her specifications and was lacking in quality. Because she had paid cash, she thought she had no recourse.

She made a couple of attempts to contact the fence company, but she never actually spoke with Johns about her concerns.

In mid-May, Ehlert called the Victoria Advocate to discuss her fence situation. After meeting with her and reviewing the details, the Advocate contacted Johns at South Texas Fence and Deck Restoration to discuss the matter.

When Johns learned of Ehlert's dissatisfaction with the new fence, he immediately called her and assured her that he would rebuild it and she would be more than happy with it. He said customer satisfaction is a primary goal and quality workmanship is what has earned his growing company a solid reputation in the community.

As of June 27, Johns made good on his promise to Ehlert. He completely replaced the first fence with a new and improved version that more than met her expectations.

While Ehlert's story has a happy ending, not everyone who hires a contractor is as fortunate.

Alan Bligh, regional director with the Better Business Bureau, recommends following these guidelines when hiring a remodeling contractor:• Get bids from at least three licensed contractors, being specific about materials, labor and time required to complete the job.

• Discuss the bids with each contractor, making sure to understand the reasons for any differences.

• Do not automatically choose the least expensive bid. Sometimes higher bids are due to better quality materials, etc.

• Ask the contractor for local references so you can see examples of the workmanship. Ask whether they are members of a professional association.

• Get a written contract that states a payment schedule, materials used and completion date.

• Avoid using cash or paying a large amount of the cost upfront.

• Contact the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org to check the background of the company.

Watchdog columnist Kathleen Grones may be reached at 361-574-1222 or by email at kgrones@vicad.com.

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