A scam is a dishonest scheme, deception or exploitation. In the home repair world, scams can be perpetrated by contractors as well as repair companies that sell products and services.
Typically, a home repair scam is when an unscrupulous contractor takes advantage of the homeowner’s lack of knowledge to overcharge them for shoddy or unfinished work.
These scams are usually done by contractors who have little or no experience in the trades they’re working in, but are trying to make a quick buck.
You can avoid becoming a victim of these scams by doing your research and contacting professionals you trust before beginning any construction project.
What Types of Scams Are Common in the Home Repair Industry?
Here are some common home repair scams you should watch out for:
The unlicensed contractor scam: This is one of the most common scams in the home repair world. In this scam, an unlicensed contractor takes advantage of a homeowner but does not have the required license to perform or bid on home repairs.
One of the problems with unlicensed contractors is that they have not taken the required tests to make home repairs, and therefore lack the knowledge of home building codes and zoning ordinances. Thus, their work could lead to fines or the inability to sell your home after an inspection.
The “you need a new roof” scam: A contractor who is looking to make a quick buck may tell the homeowner that they need a new roof, when in reality, a simple repair was all that was needed.
The phishing scam: This scam usually happens online, when a company or contractor sends an email to the homeowner asking for personal information like Social Security numbers or bank account numbers.
The shoddy workmanship scam: This is where a contractor does a poor job on the repair, often using substandard materials.
The “I’m just here to measure” scam: In this scam, a contractor is paid to come to the home to measure for a potential project, but never returns to do the work.
What Can I Do to Avoid These Types of Scams?
There are a few things you can do to avoid these types of scams. First, do your research and find someone who is licensed and has a good reputation. Contact professionals you trust and read online reviews before making a decision.
Try asking friends and family for a recommendation on a contractor. Not only will they be able to tell you if they were happy with their services, but they may also have some good advice on how to avoid being scammed.
Second, try to get at least three estimates for the work that needs to be done, and make sure that all of those estimates are in writing. This will help ensure that you’re not being taken advantage of by a contractor who is trying to charge more than what’s fair.
Lastly, always read (or ask an attorney to read) the contract carefully before signing it, and don’t agree to anything that you don’t understand. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is!
What Other Things Should I Watch Out For?
One thing to watch out for to avoid construction fraud is to not pay in full upfront. While this may seem like a quick way to get the work done, there’s really no guarantee that they will finish the job even if you have a legally binding contract.
You can also avoid scams by being mindful of what they’re asking you to sign. This means not just focusing on the details of their services, but also looking at anything else they require your signature for as well.
If something seems wrong or suspicious, then talk to them about it and don’t agree to the work until you feel comfortable with everything in the contract.
Only hire a licensed contractor to work on your home. If the person doesn’t have a license, then it is illegal for them to do any contracting or repair work. Even if they do have a license, find out what kind of licenses they carry and how many years they’ve had them.
Any legitimate contractor should have experience in doing the type of repairs that are needed for your home. Also, find out if they are bonded and have any insurance.
What Are Some Warning Signs of a Bad Contractor?
Here are some things regularly practiced by unlicensed contractors:
- They provide low estimates so they can get jobs from gullible people who will benefit from the “bargain.”
- They often don’t have proper insurance, which can leave you liable if something goes wrong or if someone gets hurt while working in your home.
- They’ll start the job, but never finish it, or will do a poor job so you have to hire another contractor to come fix their work.
- They may ask for payment up front before starting the job, which is a huge red flag.
How Can I Recover Losses from a Home Repair Scam?
If you’ve been scammed by an unlicensed contractor, there are some steps you can take to try and get your money back:
- File a complaint with your state’s Attorney General’s office. Many states have laws in place that protect consumers from being scammed by unlicensed contractors.
- File a complaint with the Consumer Protection Agency in your state.
- File a police report. In some states, there are laws that require the scam artist to pay you back if they get prosecuted for their crimes.
It’s always best to be safe rather than sorry. If you hired a contractor that didn’t have a license or did a poor job when it comes to home repairs, then the contractor can be liable for losses in most states including the cost of having to pay someone else for their faulty workmanship.
Should I Contact a Lawyer for Issues with a Home Repair Scam?
If you think you may be a victim of a home repair scam, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney to determine if filing suit is the appropriate action for your case.
There are certain instances when your claim can be handled through state agencies, but it depends on the severity of the violation and what type of damages you are seeking.
If your case involves a substantial amount of money you will want to consult with a legal professional before filing suit.
There are several reasons for this. First, you may not understand the time frame for filing suit and meeting other procedural requirements of the court system.
For instance, some states require that a suit be filed within one year or less of the date on which your claim arose. By failing to meet these requirements you could forfeit your right to seek a remedy.
Second, contacting an attorney prior to filing a claim is a good way to ensure that you understand your rights, the applicable procedures, and what you can expect from the process. This will save you time and money in the long run.
Contact a lawyer if you need help or representation regarding a dispute. Real estate attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to build a strong case on your behalf and can increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.