Avoiding Contractor Rip-Offs
Not all contractors operate within the law. Here are some tip-offs to potential rip-offs.
- A less than reputable contractor:
- solicits door-to-door;
- offers you discounts for finding other customers;
- just happens to have materials left over from a previous job;
- only accepts cash payments;
- asks you to get the required building permits;
- does not list a business number in the local telephone directory;
- tells you your job will be a "demonstration;"
- pressures you for an immediate decision;
- offers exceptionally long guarantees;
- asks you to pay for the entire job up-front;
- suggests that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows. If you're not careful, you could lose your home through a home improvement loan scam.
Talk with some of the remodeler's former customers. They can help you decide if a particular contractor is right for you.
- You may want to ask:
- Can I visit your home to see the completed job?
- Were you satisfied with the project? Was it completed on time?
- Did the contractor keep you informed about the status of the project, and any problems along the way?
- Were there unexpected costs? If so, what were they?
- Did workers show up on time? Did they clean up after finishing the job?
- Would you recommend the contractor?
- Would you use the contractor again?
Where to Complain
If you have a problem with your home improvement project, first try to resolve it with the contractor. Many disputes can be resolved at this level. Follow any phone conversations with a letter you send by certified mail. Request a return receipt. That's your proof that the company received your letter. Keep a copy for your files.
If you can't get satisfaction, consider contacting the following organizations for further information and help:
- State and local consumer protection offices.
- Your state or local Builders Association and/or Remodelors Council.
- Your local Better Business Bureau.
- Action line and consumer reporters. Check with your local newspaper, TV, and radio stations for contacts.
- Local dispute resolution programs.