The ‘Free’ Inspection
When it comes to someone showing up on your doorstep and offering a free inspection, the adage “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” applies. What is their ultimate goal?
According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers and con artists will talk their way into a home to, say, inspect a roof, then cause damage such as tearing off shingles to create a situation that then requires repairs.
Advertising by Flyer
Plumbers and electricians frequently distribute flyers throughout communities in the hopes that a small percentage of people will call. Such random distributions in your neighborhood should be interpreted as a warning to double-check credentials and legitimacy.
If you live in an area prone to hurricanes or tornadoes, you may notice this as a common occurrence after a storm. It is prudent to conduct research before signing over your insurance check to someone who drops off a flyer.
A red flag is if a contractor comes to your door claiming to have leftover supplies from another project and offers you services for a low price. While the door-to-door salesman might be a real contractor, the construction industry is booming, so anyone going door to door to solicit business is likely not a serious professional or in demand.
The Handshake Deal
Is there no contract? No job. Before any money is exchanged, homeowners should always have a solid contract in place. And if a contractor requests money, it could be a sign of a scammer (or at least someone looking to avoid the IRS).
Similarly, the contractor should not request more money than what was agreed upon in the initial contract and scope of work. Unexpected problems are a sign of a possible scam or an inexperienced contractor.
If there are potential variables in the project, you should specify in the contract that any additional work will necessitate a change order, which means that both parties must agree to the additional work and an additional fee.
If you’ve arranged for a home improvement loan or another type of financing.
Many states do not require a contractor to have a license if the amount of their annual work is less than a certain amount. While it is uncommon for a home improvement company or individual to lack credentials, it is not unheard of.
In general, it is prudent to approach non-credentialed contractors with the understanding that they may not be serious businesspeople.
How To Avoid a Home Improvement Scam
- Consider only licensed and insured contractors. Confirm a contractor’s license with your state or county government, and request proof of insurance from the contractor
- Obtain contractor referrals from people you know and trust.
- Check with the local Home Builders Association and consumer protection officials to see if any complaints have been lodged against a contractor. Search for the company’s name online using words like “scam,” “review,” or complaint.
- Examine reviews critically. Read customer reviews to learn more about the contractor, and use trustworthy online rating websites to see what others are saying about the contractor.
- Obtain several estimates. A written estimate should include a description of the work to be done, the materials used, the completion date, and the cost. Don’t always go with the lowest bidder. Also, if there is a significant difference between the estimates, request an explanation.
- Read the contract thoroughly. Contract requirements differ from state to state. Even if your state does not require a written agreement, you should request one. Check the contract carefully before signing it.
– The contractor’s name, address, phone number, and license number
–a projected start and finish date
–any promises made during conversations or phone calls about issues such as the scope of work and labor and material costs
– If you signed the contract in your home or at a location other than the seller’s permanent place of business, you will receive a written statement stating your right to cancel the contract within three business days.
- Never pay the entire work cost up front. Some states actually limit the amount of money a contractor can ask for as a down payment. To find out what the law is in your area, contact your state or local consumer agency. And never make the final payment until you are completely satisfied with the work.