Home repair problems often blindside you. The roof leaks after a storm. The dishwasher floods the kitchen. In your haste to make repairs, remember these tips from Maryland’s Attorney General’s office on avoiding home repair scams. Avoid:
- The contractor who just happens to be driving by — with a “today only” or “cash only” offer.
- The roofing contractor who tells you what’s wrong without getting on the roof or looking in your attic to see how well the roof decking was installed.
- The driveway sealing contractor who just happens to have materials left over from a job and can do the work today only for a cash payment.
- The contractor who rushes you to start the work. They should give you time to think it through and compare estimates.
Avoiding home repair scams
The sure fire way to protect yourself from home repair scams is to follow up on references. Go look at the work and ask how the project turned out. How were any surprises handled? Was the work done within the original budget? Did the contractor explain and get approval for any extra costs? Also:
- Ask the home improvement contractor for a sample of his written contract. It should list details of building materials uses, the brand names of products, sizes, warranty information, etc.
- Check with your state’s attorney general’s office about whether contractor licensing is required. Some states, such as Maryland, also have insurance funds to help cover home owner problems with contractors.
- If the contract is signed in your home, you’re probably covered by the Door-to-Door Sales Act, which gives you 3 days to cancel.
- Always get lien waivers from everyone who works on your house. This states that the contractor has been paid. Here’s a sample form from California’s Consumer Affairs Department.
There are many good home improvement contractors out there. It just takes time to find them and do your homework. Just remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.