Homeowners: Five steps to avoid con­trac­tor fraud

The Progress-Index - At Home - - News - STATEPOINT

Each year, thou­sands of trust­ing homeowners hire con­trac­tors for home re­pairs or ren­o­va­tion projects. But for many, dreams of a re­mod­eled kitchen, new roof or up­dated pa­tio are dashed by con­trac­tor fraud.

Over half of homeowners who hire con­trac­tors state that fraud is their big­gest fear, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent on­line sur­vey con­ducted for HomeAd­vi­sor.

But savvy homeowners can avoid fraud by rec­og­niz­ing the warn­ing signs and fol­low­ing sim­ple hir­ing prac­tices. Amy Matthews, home im­prove­ment ex­pert and TV host, is shar­ing five sim­ple steps homeowners can fol­low to safe­guard them­selves:

• Look for an es­tab­lished com­pany with a per­ma­nent busi­ness lo­ca­tion and a listed phone num­ber: Fraud­u­lent con­trac­tors are of­ten “trav­el­ers” — busi­nesses from out of the area, or con­trac­tors with no per­ma­nent busi­ness lo­ca­tion. Mak­ing sure a con­trac­tor has a per­ma­nent busi­ness lo­ca­tion and a listed phone num­ber will alert homeowners to th­ese “trav­el­ers” or other il­le­git­i­mate con­trac­tors.

• Ask for a writ­ten, signed con­tract: Le­git­i­mate con­trac­tors will have no qualms about sign­ing a con­tract and pro­vid­ing their busi­ness in­for­ma­tion. This sim­ple step will typ­i­cally weed out most fraud­u­lent busi­nesses afraid of hav­ing their scams dis­cov­ered.

• Never pay with cash up front: With­out cash in hand, un­scrupu­lous con­trac­tors have few ways to pull off a scam. Never pay in full with cash be­fore a job is started, and never pay a de­posit with cash. Con­sider a re­quest for a cash pay­ment be­fore work be­gins as a red flag that the con­trac­tor may be at­tempt­ing to de­fraud.

• Ask for re­fer­rals or check re­views on­line: Re­fer­rals are a sim­ple way to learn about a con­trac­tor’s track record from a friend, as­so­ciate or other trusted source. Use web­sites like HomeAd­vi­sor. com that of­fer rat­ings, re­views or screen­ing ser­vices as a way to as­sure that a con­trac­tor has a his­tory of hon­est busi­ness deal­ings and high-qual­ity work.

• Use li­censed con­trac­tors: A li­censed con­trac­tor’s rep­u­ta­tion is at stake when com­plet­ing work.

Be­fore hir­ing con­trac­tors, check with the state con­trac­tor li­cens­ing board to see if a li­cense is re­quired. Make sure their li­cense is valid and there are no le­gal claims against the con­trac­tor.

More i n f o r mat i o n a b o u t h o me im­prove­ment, main­te­nance and re­pair projects, in­clud­ing project cost guides, emer­gency sup­port and pre-screened pro­fes­sion­als, can be found at www. HomeAd­vi­sor.com


Don’t deal with un­scrupu­lous con­trac­tors. By tak­ing pre­cau­tions, you can en­sure your home ren­o­va­tion projects are com­pleted pro­fes­sion­ally and on time.

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