Be aware of scammers looking to do home improvement work

By: 
Ron Craig

        Warmer weather is fast approaching. Unfortunately, along with the arrival of warmer weather comes an opportunity for scammers who prey on homeowners wanting to make improvements to their properties.
        Every year, people are scammed out of millions of dollars by paying for roof repairs, driveway refinishing, construction projects, and other work that is never completed or even started.
        Those who wish to have such work done are urged to deal only with local, reputable businesses who have a proven track record of providing quality work with a high degree of customer satisfaction.
        There are several ways to check the reputation of a business. You can contact the local B etter Business Bureau at 419-531-3116 to see if the business has had any complaints filed against it. Remember, however, if a complaint has been filed against a business, that complaint does not make it a bad business. How favorably any complaints have been resolved is the key.
        Word of mouth is also a good way to check the reliability of a business. If you are contemplating hiring a business to do any home improvement work, ask for local references from neighbors and acquaintances who have had that business do work for them. Ask those people about the quality of the work that was done and if the work was done as promised.
        “As promised” includes completion of the work on time and within budget. A contractor who has a track record of multiple cost overruns should be avoided.
        Check to see if the business is licensed, insured, and bonded. Don’t take anyone’s word they meet these requirements, regardless of how many documents they show you. Get a phone number you have independently acquired for any such agency and call them to verify this information.
        If someone shows up at your residence and tells you he or she is in the area doing work at a nearby residence and noticed you need work done, this is a huge red flag. Unsolicited offers to do such work rarely turn out well. These contractors may not perform work that is adequate, or they may use slipshod materials. For example, if the work involves paint or asphalt coatings, it may wash away in the next heavy rainfall.
        Many times, these contractors ask for an unreasonable amount of money up front and do not complete the work or even show up to start the work.
        These businesses are not usually licensed as required and are likely not insured or bonded. As a result, you may have little or no recourse if things don’t end well.
        Even reputable contractors may require you to pay a certain amount of money before they start the work. Remember that some contractors have been burned by unscrupulous homeowners who have work completed, then refuse to pay.       
        Another red flag concerns contractors who show business cards with no specific local address and/or phone number on them. If the contractor has no sign on his or her truck or has a magnetic sign, this could also be a red flag.
        A contract for work should be involved, and this contract should include information about the contractor, including an address and phone number. Insist such a contract includes a promised start and completion date for the work to be done.
        A law enforcement agency is usually powerless to pursue fraud charges against a contractor if the contract does not include a begin and end date for the work to be performed. This is likely to becomes a civil issue for the homeowner, meaning the homeowner must take the contractor to court in civil litigation to recover any damages.
        Do your homework before you enter into a contract or agreement for these types of work. It will pay benefits many times over.
        This article is a public service from the Community Policing/Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime prevention and public safety topics by contacting Ron Craig, crime prevention specialist/community policing officer, at 419-481-6354.

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