With the recent winter storm impacting thousands of people and leaving behind major damage, you may be searching for a contractor to make repairs to your home. While there are many legitimate contractors out there, unfortunately, there are just as many scam artists looking to cheat you out of your money posing as contractors. Many of these scam artists may be the first to arrive at your front door after a disaster.
Here are a few tips from the Texas Attorney General to ensure you are conducting business with a legitimate contractor.
Be cautious when a salesperson appears at your door uninvited. Not all door-to-door contractors are scammers -- but many scammers do work from door to door. Home improvement scams often flourish in the wake of emergencies. Some legitimate repair specialists may work door to door in these circumstances, but so do con artists.
Choosing a Contractor
Take time to choose the person who will work on your home. It is a good idea to choose a contractor with an established physical address. You should be sure you can find anyone who has done work on your house, in case problems arise.
Get multiple bids: The best policy is to get bids from more than one person for any work you are going to have done on your house. Get the bids in writing, and look for detail about exactly what will be done.
Beware of the "low-ball" bidder whose price is much lower than everyone else's. Question the quality of the materials that will be used and the work that will be done. A very low bidder may not plan to include all the specific tasks you might expect, and may use very cheap, inexperienced labor, or second-rate materials. Most of the legitimate bids should fall into a fairly close range.
Seek references. Ask to speak to satisfied customers.
Be Smart about Contracts
Most home repair and remodeling work is performed under contract. Legitimate businesses will usually insist on having a contract for their own protection, and a well written contract should protect the homeowner, too.
DO NOT sign a contract with blanks in it. It happens: the blanks get filled in later, and the new terms are not likely to be in the consumer's favor.
DO NOT sign a contract until you have carefully read and understood every word of it. Sometimes it can be difficult to get out of a signed contract.
DO NOT allow anyone to rush you into signing a contract. The sales person should be willing to leave the contract with you so you can read it carefully on your own time. If anyone rushes you or tries to make you sign on the spot, or will not leave a copy for you to study, you should be suspicious of that person and the contract. Get and keep copies of everything you sign at the time you sign it.
Paying for the Work
In most circumstances a contractor will ask for partial payment in advance, and provided that you have taken the precautions recommended above, you should expect to provide a part of the cost before the work begins (except in certain cases after a disaster). However, it is notorious that scammers involved in door-to-door rip-offs will ask for payment in full in advance, and then abscond without completing (sometimes without even starting) the job.
Do not pay in full until work is complete: Even with a reputable business and a sound written contract in place, you should not pay in full until the work is complete and you have inspected it yourself and found it satisfactory. A partial payment schedule will usually specify what part of the job has been done when a partial payment is due. Inspect the work and make sure the contractor has met the schedule before you make your payment.