Home Improvement Scams and How to Avoid Them
Remodeling and fixing the home can be expensive, but do you know what’s even more costly?
Falling for home improvement scams!
These scams target new homeowners and can cost you several thousands of dollars. Don’t fall for the scams. Become an expert in avoiding these tricks. Continue reading to learn what the top home improvement scams are and how to avoid them.
What is a home improvement scam?
A home improvement scam can vary. Scam artist can target homeowners in multiple ways. These strategies can include:
- Using high pressure tactics
- Tacking on repairs the homeowner does not need
- Charging unfair and inflated prices
- Delivering terrible work
- Not delivering work at all
- Posing as an inspector to demand repairs to the home
Typically older adults fall victim to these scams. Their trust is exploited as these scam artists go door to door to find new people to essentially rob.
Older adults are typically targets because they likely own their homes. Older adults are less likely to report the scam since many can feel ashamed afterward.
Avoid those door to door sales and scams
This is possibly one of the largest home improvement scams. If a salesperson approaches your property, you should be cautious. Of course, not every salesperson that travels door-to-door is a scammer. But it’s best to be cautious if someone appears uninvited. They tend to appear after tragedy strikes. For example, many scammers will approach you after a storm .
Ensure you ask for a physical address if you decide to try their services. This way, you can find them if something happens to go wrong with the project.
Take your time to choose a contractor
It’s important that you take enough time out of your day to select a qualified contractor. Select someone who won’t participate in home improvement scams. Work with a contractor who has an established and physical address. This applies to plumbing companies or AC repair companies too.
You should also receive rates from multiple contractors in the area. This can help you settle on a contractor, as you don’t want to work with someone whose services are too cheap or too expensive. When someone charges you too little, this shows they lack experience and confidence with their abilities. However, if they charge you too much, they may be running their own home improvement scam.
Additionally, get your final bid in writing. This ensures your rate will stay the same. If your contractor is a scammer, they can easily go back on their word. They could charge you more than your agreed upon rate! They may even get rid of some of the original and agreed upon services.
Avoid the scams and ask for references
When seeking a contractor, it’s important to ask for references too.
Especially if you want to weed out the home improvement scams.
Consider asking them for a list of past clients upfront. If the contractor or garage door repair person has a website, then you can likely look at past reviews online and from the comfort of your couch.
Read your contracts thoroughly
Before signing the contract, you want to ensure you read it all the way through. Don’t just glaze through the words. If you don’t understand something, or you find that something is unclear, work this out with your contractor or lawyer. Repair work should always be performed under a contract. Legitimate businesses do this to protect themselves. If they don’t insist on drafting up a contract, then you should reconsider working with them. This is for your protection. You don’t want to fall for another one of those home improvement scams!
Do not sign a contract that has any blank areas. They will get filled in later with false information at your expense.
If the contractor is rushing you to sign the contract, respectfully tell them that you wish to read the terms and agreement over at your own pace. This should raise red flags too. If something is written incorrectly in the contract, do not sign it and clearly let the contractor know why you’re unsatisfied with the draft.
If they are running a reputable business, they will likely make the correction for you and make a new copy that you will feel more comfortable signing.
Keep plenty of copies once it has been signed.
Brush up on the contactor liens clause
Here’s another way you can ensure you don’t encounter harmful home improvement scams!
When reading through your contract, ensure that there is a warning about the legal ownership rights of your home. If the work is not completed and meets all the conditions outlined in the contract, you may lose your home. When you sign a contract for home improvements, the lead contractor can place a lien on the homestead. This means that if you sign a contract containing that warning above, and you fail to make your required payments, the company can take your home.
It’s crucial that you understand your own obligations under the contract. You need to be certain that you can meet these requirements as well. If you’re feeling uncertain about signing the contract, contact your attorney to work through the details. If there will be a lien on the home, ensure a notary is present before signing.
Paying for your work legitimately
If you want to avoid these home improvement scams, ensure you’re also paying for the work properly.
Usually, a contractor will ask you for a partial payment to secure the work. If you have read through the contract properly, this shouldn’t be a problem. You should be prepared to hand over this set amount of money towards the total cost. Most scammers will ask you to pay all the money upfront. This is how you can weed the scammers out. You should never pay the full amount until some of the work has been completed. You should be happy with the work your garage door contractors are doing!
If you are asked to sign a certificate of completion in order for the team to receive payment, do not make this official unless you are completely satisfied with their work! Inspect it and make sure it meets all of the standards outlined in the contract.
Types of scams
There are various types of home improvement scams that you need to keep a close eye out for!
Mold is a common issue in most households. It can also be frustrating to get rid of. Namely, because it’s so dangerous. If you have breathing issues like asthma, the tiny spores can aggravate your lungs. Therefore, it’s essential that you get rid of the source immediately. Unfortunately, there are many home improvement scams that claim they can get rid of mold but will leave your home exactly the same!
Contractors will typically have a cap on the coverage and will not cover the remediation of the mold.
Other signs you’re being scammed
There are a few other signs that you have been scammed. For instance, avoid contractors who claim that if you sign now, you will get a discount. This is a tactic meant to pressure you into signing. With these home improvement scams, the contractor will probably never get back to you after signing the agreement.
Avoid contracts with limited details
You also want to avoid signing a contract with limited details. If you asked for a power washing service, and it’s not mentioned in the contact, you may be getting scammed!
Your team members do not have permits
Obtaining a permit is required when conduction heavy duty work like well drilling. If your team does not have the proper permits, they may be working illegally. Also, if you’re asked to pull the permits, this is another red flag!
Shifty contractors will tell you that pulling the contracts will save you money. However, the truth is that most contractors will request this if their license has been revoked!
Additionally, if you pull the permits, they won’t be responsible for inspection failures. You will be!
The contractor uses another contractor’s license
The contractor may also be using another contractor’s license if their own has gotten suspended. Sure, it may fool someone initially. But using someone else’s license is no excuse! It can land the homeowner in hot water if you’re not careful.
The contractor asks for money continuously
It’s a non-stop game. Once it seems like the contractor is about to wrap up the job, something goes wrong and they have to ask for more money. Then it happens again and again! Before you know it, your wallet is empty and the original job has not been completed! Ensure that you’re paying close attention if the contractor happens to ask for more money with no proof of completion. Once you enter the rabbit hole of excuses, your contractor will milk more money out of you!
What to do if you have been scammed
Despite the precautions, these scams can happen to anyone.
If you have been scammed, there are a few steps you should take. First, try to resolve the issue through the contractor. Clear the air. Perhaps your scuffle was a misunderstanding and can be handled through a simple conversation. If you’re able to get a hold of the contractor, ensure you keep a calm tone. You don’t want to give the contractor a reason to fight back or to get snippy.
Bring a copy of your contract to review too.
If they have an office, schedule a meeting there to discuss your issues in person.
This is also the best course of action to take if you wish to contact an attorney.
After meeting with them in person, follow up your conversation with a letter and a request for a refund in the mail. They should get back to you in a few days. However, if you receive no response, contact an attorney and consider pursuing legal action.
If the contractor has broken the contract, you are entitled to compensation. If the contractor is performing work without a license, they can also be sent to jail, or have to pay a hefty fine. Many states require a contractor to work with a license. The exceptions are:
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
If you’re working with a contractor in a state that requires the proper documentation, they need to prove to you that they are credited to start and finish the job. If not, they can face severe consequences.
There are various home improvement scams out there. Ensure you don’t fall for them by taking the proper precautions. Falling for these scams can cost you thousands of dollars! Do the hard work upfront and ensure you’re working with a legitimate contractor or roof installation company before you take the plunge. Read over your contract religiously and always ask questions if something seems unclear!