Avoiding the Home Improvement Scam
The smiling fix-it person at your door might turn out to be an unscrupulous contractor or an outright con-artist, out to fleece you with home improvement scam. If you are a homeowner, it's not uncommon to have contractors show up on your doorstep uninvited. Shady contractors will often ask for payment up front. Some simply disappear with your money. Others will do shoddy work or claim to have discovered some hidden problem in your house that needs immediate attention and significantly raises the cost.
Look out for these warning signs:
- Beware of contractors who say they stopped by because they just happen to be in your neighborhood. The good ones are usually too busy to roam around in search of work.
- Be skeptical if a contractor says they can offer a lower price because they'll be using surplus material. That could mean they overbilled a previous customer or didn't finish the work.
Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim:
- Require a bid in writing, and compare bids from multiple contractors before agreeing to any work.
- Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to see contractors' ratings and whether any complaints have been filed against them.
- Get a written contract before you pay any money and before the work starts.
- Read the fine print. The BBB says a contract should include a detailed description of the work, material costs, start and completion dates and warranty information.
- Verify, before you make the final payment, that all work has been completed to your satisfaction, any subcontractors or suppliers have been paid and the job site has been cleaned up.