Spring is here and if you are a homeowner, it’s also a time to start focusing on the latest projects to do around the house. Spring is also a prime time for home improvement scams. If you are looking for someone to do the work for you, there are some things you might want to keep an eye out for in order to protect yourself and your hard-earned money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the following are some warning signs that a contractor might not be reputable:
- Scammers knock on your door looking for business because they are “in the area.”
- Scammers say they have materials left over from a previous job.
- Scammers pressure you for an immediate decision.
- Scammers ask you to pay for everything upfront or only accept cash.
- Scammers ask you to get any required building permits.
- Scammers suggest you borrow money from a lender they know.
Some other advice to help protect yourself:
- Get recommendations from friends you know and trust.
- Read reviews carefully. Look at customer reviews to find out more about the contractor and use online rating websites you trust to see what others are saying about the contractor. You can search for Home Improvements on the Better Business Bureau’s website here: https://www.bbb.org/
- Get multiple estimates. A written estimate should include a description of the work to be done, materials, completion date, and the price. Don’t automatically choose the lowest bidder. And ask for an explanation if there’s a big difference among the estimates.
- Consider only contractors who are licensed and insured. In Pennsylvania, Home Improvement Contractors must be registered with the state. You can search for a contractor’s registration here: https://hicsearch.attorneygeneral.gov/
- Read your contract carefully. In PA, any contract that is signed in your home allows you a three-day right to cancel. This statement should be in writing, on the contract, for it to be legitimate, as required on a home improvement contract under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act.
- Don’t pay the full amount up front. In PA, only 30% (one third) is required upfront. And never make the final payment until the work is completed and you are satisfied with it.
You can find out more information on the PA Home Improvement Protection Act here: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/resources/home-improvement-contractor-registration/contractor-frequently-asked-questions/
(Source: United States Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov)