The Care & Feeding of Your Home: Avoid Home Improvement Fraud
By Handyman Bob Strong
Once you’re the victim of a home repair scam, you won’t ever get your money back and you’ll have to pay for the repairs and possible additional damage. Prevention is the best form of protection. Following is Handyman Bob’s Top Ten List of ways to avoid home improvement fraud:
- Verify the contractor’s license with CCB in Oregon and BOLI in Washington. Don’t even consider hiring someone who is not licensed, because you become the contractor, responsible for paying subcontractors, accidents on the property, and maybe even payroll taxes. No license, no work!
- Be Super Careful here. According to the Postal Inspector, the fastest growing areas of home repair fraud are Painting, General repairs, Re-roofing/Roof repairs, Siding Replacement, and Whole House Window Replacement.
- The scam artist really puts pressure on to arrange for fast payment. Legitimate businesses also want to reduce the time between making the sale and getting paid, but scammers stress this, because for them their job is not the work to be done – it’s collecting the money!
- Watch for these warning signs – rebates, door-to-door sales, selling the financing and not the work, money up front, offers of free inspections, no tools in their van, advertising that doesn’t include a license number, can’t produce license and insurance information, proposal is very vague with regard to quality of materials.
- Don’t close the door – slam it, if you hear, “working in your neighborhood and have materials left over…”, “use your house to get more work”, “offer only good today”, “cash for materials up front”.
- Insist on a detailed contract. If remodeling the kitchen, the contractor should specify the make and model of all appliances, all fixtures, all stone and tile, the color of the paint – you get the idea. If the contract simply states, “Remodel kitchen – $32,000”, show him the door.
- Never, ever pay by debit card (and avoid using checks drawn on an account with lots of $$$ in it) and never allow use of your tools in lieu of theirs (if they don’t have tools, they’re not for real).
- Always pay using a credit card or, if you choose to use checks, make sure they are not one of your primary bank accounts. Scammers don’t just stick to home improvement fraud, they love identity theft, as well. If you use a check to pay for work done by a subcontractor, make the check payable to both parties, the contractor and his sub.
- Never pay the whole amount until you are completely satisfied with the work. In fact, it is a good idea to have 10% to 20% retainage specified in the contract. This is common practice in commercial work; insist on it when remodeling or repairing your home.
- Don’t even consider hiring someone who is not licensed! This is so important, it is not only the first item in the Top Ten List of ways to avoid home improvement fraud, it is also the last one. Remember, No License, No Work!
Handyman Bob offers home improvement advice on his radio show, Around The House, every Saturday from noon to 2pm on FM News 101 KXL. And, during the week, he provides residential and commercial asbestos testing services for homeowners and contractors. Visit www.AsbestosTestingServices.us for details.