Do you know a guy? It seems like everyone does. They may be a jack of all trades, but are they a master of any? Are they reliable, or even qualified?

I hang out in some of the Facebook groups where people ask for recommendations and referrals. I’ve found it a helpful way to keep tabs on what’s going on with various industries and companies.

These groups are great; given the wide reach of the successful ones, it’s a convenient way to find service recommendations from people nearby. And what better recommendation than from someone who’s used the same service provider in their own home?

When there are posts looking for services (usually tool trades, for some reason) I often see people respond by commenting with some variation of “I know a guy.”

Maritimers support each other. If we know someone handy who could use a bit of extra cash, we want to help them out. We also have a high propensity to trust. Someone’s word and a handshake are all we need. And then there’s the feeling of keeping our money out of the hands of the government, right? Getting a bit of work done under the table keeps more money in our pockets.

If you’re thinking about hiring someone this way, consider how you could be putting yourself at risk.

If you pay cash for a discount on services, there is no paper trail, no evidence. This means that if something goes wrong, there’s very little recourse. If you are unsatisfied, there’s no documentation for the work that was done, and (probably) no way to get it fixed up. Often we hear stories in our office about families who’ve had to pay extra just to clean up substandard work done by someone who wasn’t qualified, more than they would have paid to hire someone qualified in the first place.

Working with an underground business can also expose you to big legal and financial liabilities. If the person you hire doesn’t carry the proper insurance coverages, you could be sued if someone is injured on the job on your property.

In the long run, working with an underground business hurts our local economy, too. Since HST and other taxes are not collected, this shifts more of the tax burden to businesses who fulfil the legal requirements, and to individual taxpayers. Meanwhile, legitimate businesses, who play by the rules and create jobs in our community struggle to compete with unreasonably low quotes.

This is not to say that word-of-mouth recommendations aren’t useful. It’s just that it’s important to protect yourself. Always check to see if the company has a business licence which you can do through Canada Business Network.

Shop around and get quotes from a few different companies. A significantly lower price may not be a sign of a good deal, it may be a red flag. And when you decide who you want to work with, make sure you’ve got complete contact information for them: phone, address, and email. Make sure you can get in touch if you need to.

Most importantly, get everything in writing, including an invoice detailing the work that was done. Don’t be tempted to overlook this for a cut-rate price. Without paperwork, you’re almost certainly on your own if anything goes wrong.

So, next time you know a guy, make sure that guy has the proper qualifications.

Oh, and we know a guy, too. Lots of them, in fact. Visit bbb.org for information on reliable and trustworthy businesses in your area.

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