The illegal acts committed by individual contractors or firms are known as contractor fraud. Fraud on the part of a contractor includes performing substandard repairs or offering services that deliberately cheat the other party. Contractors may also work with construction companies to commit construction fraud.
Contractor fraud is costly for homeowners because the fraudulent acts can lead to more bills or cause extensive damage to property. Many fraudulent contractors continue to get away with these acts because they target uninformed individuals.
Common Fraudulent Scams by Contractors
Fraudulent contractors typically use threats and intimidation and go after individuals, such as the elderly. The following are common tactics and techniques used in contractor fraud:
- Requiring payment up front
- Written contracts that do not include verbal agreements
- Contractors not getting the right permit
- Contractors reveal unforeseen problems that need extra work
- Selling extra materials to sell you for a cheap price
What Can I Do to Avoid Contractor Fraud?
There are simple steps homeowners can take to insure that they do not fall victim to these tricks. The following are questions and steps you should take when dealing with contractors:
- Paying up front: do not pay more than $1,000 or 10% of the job total, whichever is the lesser amount.
- Verbal and written agreements: Make sure everything you want and agree to is in the final contract.
- Getting the right permit: Request that the contractor get a builder’s permit because this will protect you from unlicensed contractors.
- Unforeseen problems and extra work: Make sure the contract requires that the homeowner and contractor must both sign before anything is charged or worked on.
- Selling extra materials at a cheap price: Do not buy services or materials on the spot or on an impulse, always do your research and make sure the contractor has a good reputation.
What If the Fraud Already Happened, What Can I Do?
It is likely in your best interest to contact an attorney immediately when a contractor’s fraudulent act has occurred. The legal remedies for you situation can vary and an attorney can tell you what your best options are.
The most common claim you can file in this situation is a theft loss deduction with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This solution may not be available for all because the deduction can be claimed only if the losses exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income.
Should I Get an Attorney If My Contractor Committed Fraud?
Yes. Contractor fraud cases can be complex because they involve real estate law, contract law, and tax law. An experienced real estate lawyer or contract attorney can help you through this difficult situation and represent you in court.