A Free ConsultationHouse Doctor

A free consultation with the House Doctor – June 2011

Hello fellow Quepolandiacs,

Just because the “Caja” is in crisis doesn’t mean the “Casa” is too. I promise not to lose my bed-side manner. (It’s more of a hammock-side manner anyway.) Just to keep your issues from requiring tissues, here are a few tips to keep your wallet safe and healthy.

I get the privilege during my house calls to experience the unique perspective of listening to my patients calmly explain to me how the last professionals that serviced their property “totally –expletive- expletived  everything up!” ending in any messy scenario involving water, fire, electric, money, arguments, and sometimes strange disappearances of any number of proper nouns. Where is the accountability for failure in remodeling or simple home repairs? The simple answer you already know.

There are many very responsible experienced repairmen here that do a wonderful job, many of whom come recommended by word of mouth. Neighbors, friends, family, or your gardener’s first wife’s cousin-in-law’s nephew. When you need a quick fix sometimes your options seem limited and you grab the first guy that steps up to the task. I love that Costa Rican “Can-do” attitude. Unfortunately, if everyone were telling the truth about their professions, 90% of the workers I know would be professional plumbers, electricians, mechanics, welders, rodeo cowboys, and astronauts. They would just have to borrow the tools from somebody manana.

So what happens when your new carpenter/ helicopter pilot accidentally dumps leftover concrete down your bathroom sink? Or drags a wheelbarrow down the side of you new Hyundai, or claims he slipped and fell on your property? Or decides to “permanently borrow” some things from your house.

There are no home improvement contractor licenses here kids. But there are ways to protect yourself with simple preventative maintenance. No matter how small the job.

1)  Hiring someone with an S.A. is a start.  (Sociadad Anonymo) A legal tax paying incorporation.

2) Ask for references! It’s a small town, you probably know who they’ve worked for. Do your homework!

3) Are they a legal resident? Or a fly by night foreigner looking for quick cash?  Ask for a copy of their cedula residencia.

4) Ask about their insurance policy, (Seguro) and what it covers. Do they carry independent insurance? Ask for a copy. If someone is working on your property, and you are handing them money, they are your responsibility. You can also take out a temporary work insurance policy at the seguridad social office in Quepos across from Super Jordix. It’s not expensive.

5) Never assume that you hired ONE guy. The next day he may show up with 7 buddies that you don’t know. Clarify that beforehand with him!

6) Draw up a simple contract outlining responsibilities and payment schedule. It may sound like extra work but could really help if something goes sour.

7) Never pay more than half up front, and get a receipt signed with every payment.

All these tips are not guarantees but simple acts of protection. I am not a lawyer or qualified to give legal advice, marital advice, child rearing advice, nor do I know how to make a decent empanada. Bottom line, use common sense and trust your instinct! I have faith in you, but if you feel a sniffle coming on, just call the Doctor.