Have you made your first spring trip to your local hardware store yet? With the arrival of spring, many consumers are already busy with projects around the house. Unfortunately, warm weather ushers in both blooming flowers and scammers offering all manner of shoddy home repair “services” and outright scams.
This spring, don’t be a victim of home repair scams. Arm yourself by being aware of the following red flags of potential home repair scams:
- Contractors who appear uninvited at your doorstep or who call or email you out of the blue.
- The contractor says they are doing work in your neighborhood and claims they have “extra material” left over
- You feel pressured to make a decision and sign a contract for the work immediately
- The contractor offers a “special deal” available “today only”
- The contractor points out a “problem” with your home that you never noticed yourself before. Some unscrupulous scam artists have been known to offer “free” inspections and then break something on purpose so they can be paid to “fix” the problem
- The contractor demands full payment up front, particularly if payment is demanded in cash.
- The contractor lacks identification, such as a permit from the city or locality
- Offers to give you a discount so that your home can be used as a “model” or if you find additional customers for him/her
- The contractor offers to help finance the project, either from his own funds or the funds of an associate, especially if your home equity or home deed is involved.
- The contractor insists you come and examine “damage” with him (while an associate steals valuables from your home)
Some of the more common types of home repair scam involve duct cleaning, driveway sealant, leaky foundations, landscaping, furnace and roofing repair. This is by no means an exhaustive list, however.
Consumers can take some precautions to avoid home repair scams, including:
- Get multiple estimates on any home repair job before signing a contract
- Check out the contractor’s references and visit the site to check out the quality of the work itself, if possible
- Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau and make sure the contractor is registered with your state board of contractors and your local building inspection office
- Never pay in full up front, especially if cash is the only payment accepted
- Make sure the contractor is insured and bonded
- Document in writing the scope of the work to be done and the complete cost and time necessary to complete the job and how payment will be handled.