Warning Signs: Scams Ahead
The following is a list of some of the typical warning signs homeowners need to be wary of as cited by various government agencies and other consumer information groups. I’ve also included my own “red flags” of what to look for AFTER the remodeling project begins that we and other homeowners have personally experienced.
Go through this checklist as you evaluate each potential contractor. And if you get a “gut” feeling that there is something suspicious about the person for whatever reason – though he passes on all the points below – listen to your intuition and move on. Many people – myself included – have ignored that sense and regretted it later.
• You cannot verify name, address, telephone number or credentials of the contractor
• No references are furnished.
• You are unable to verify the license or insurance information of the contractor
• Information you receive from the contractor is out of date or no longer valid.
• The salesperson or contractor tries to pressure you into signing the contract.
• The salesperson or contractor says your home will be used for advertising purposes so you will be given a “discount” or “special low rate”. The salesperson or contractor tells you the “special price” will only be available if you sign the contract today.
• The contractor solicits door-to-door. The contractor just happens to have materials left over from a previous job.
• Offers discounts for finding other customers.
• Offers you exceptionally long guarantees.
• You are asked to pay for the entire job in advance. Yikes! Don’t you dare!
• Accepts cash payments only. Say Bye-Bye!
• Asks you to get the required building permits because it will cost less if you do it. Not True! He is either unlicensed or has had his license revoked.
• Does not list a business number in the local telephone directory.
• Works out of his truck – with the dog. No address given.
• Suggests you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows. If you’re not careful, you could loose your home through a home improvement loan scam.
• You are asked to sign a completion certificate for the job by appeal, threat, trick or before the job is properly completed.
• If a deal sounds too good to be true, well it probably is. You should be looking for quality in construction by meeting or exceeding industry standards and ethical behavior of the contractor. You accomplish this by doing a thorough background check on the contractor.
• The contractor starts talking about “problems” he has had with certain customers – pass on this one because you’ll likely be his next problem
• The salesperson tells you that you can’t speak to or meet the general contractor yet – you must deal exclusively with him/her and only AFTER you’ve signed the contract will you get to meet the contractor. Run for the hills when you hear this one!
Be very cautious when dealing with a contractor who does heavy advertising in local newspapers, radio spots on am talk shows, Sunday inserts etc.
“Volume” rather than “quality” construction is the red flag here. It becomes a numbers game and you loose. In my conversations with several contractors, all agree that this is where a contractor will spread himself too thin and on-going projects will suffer-some more than others as was our case. Supervision of your project becomes nonexistent and workers pressured to move from one house to the next produce shoddy workmanship. The really good contractors develop word of mouth referrals from customers and have plenty of work to keep them busy the next several months. They are worth the wait and besides, this gives you the time to do your research on products and materials for your project.
• If your contractor or any of his subs looses their cool, starts yelling or threatens you in any way, order him to leave, call the police and file a report. Decent, ethical contractors DO NOT behave irrationally like this. I’ve actually received emails from several homeowners who have had this happen to them and some say they’ve been afraid to not give in to them for fear the contractor will retaliate.
This is a scary trend I’m hearing more about from consumers everywhere and it surprises me that people are allowing these nuts to control them with threats and violence. If you can, record his rants as proof, file a report with the authorities and get him away from your property. We had an experience with a sub or two that lost their cool, became belligerent and they were quickly booted out. No one has the right to harm you, threaten or otherwise treat you badly! Stand up for your rights and fight back!