How To Avoid Home Repair Scams
Spring is the most popular time for home repairs and that makes it prime time for scams. You can take steps to avoid them.
Here's how some home repair scams work: Con-artists stop at your door, give you a hard sell, and offer sensationally low prices. It might be for painting, siding, roofing, etc. with material supposedly "left over" from a job nearby. The con-artists might insist that you pay in advance, but then do little or no work and never return. Remember, legitimate contractors very rarely solicit door-to-door. So be skeptical. The main rule is to check out the contractor, and never pay large sums in advance to a contractor you don't know. If you have to make a partial advance payment for materials, make your check out to the supplier and the contractor. Insist on a "mechanic's lien waiver" from the main (General) contractor and all subcontractors in case the contractor fails to pay others for materials or labor. If this happens the supplier or subcontractor has the right to put a lien on your home.
Beware of high-pressure sales tactics such as "today-only" discounts, offers to use your home as a "display home" for replacement of siding or windows, and "lifetime warranty" offers that only last for the life of the company. Always get several written estimates and shop around for the best deal before making such a large investment
A few 'bad-apple' local contractors also take large advance payments but fail to do the work, or do just part of a job or very shoddy work. This is hard to prove as fraud, but it's costly and frustrating. Follow these tips to protect yourself when you hire a contractor:
Check out a contractor before you sign a contract or pay any money. Request local references and check them out. Ask them to include references from people that they have had to do warranty work for. This will give you insight into how the contractor handles disputes. Contact the Attorney General's Office to see if it has complaints or contact the Better Business Bureau. The local Chamber of Commerce may also have information that could be helpful You can also contact your county clerk of court and ask how to check if a contractor has been sued by unsatisfied customers.
Get it in writing. Before any work begins, agree on a written contract detailing work to be done, responsibility for permits, costs, and any other promises. Ask for a copy of the contractor's liability insurance certificate. Put start and completion dates in writing, and consequences if the contractor fails to meet them. (Example: the contract could be nullified if the contractor doesn't start on time.) If you sign a contract at your home, in most cases you have three business days to cancel.
Common Sense is the best defense and always get signed lien waver when any payment is made.