Home Repair Scams

August 11, 2016

Following storms, traveling con artists may try to rip off Ohio homeowners. To avoid scams, research a contractor before you pay, and be wary of anyone who shows up unexpectedly after a storm and asks for full payment in advance or tells you to sign over your insurance check.

Some scammers track storms and travel to affected communities to rip off homeowners who experience damage. They take money immediately but leave without completing the work. For example, some may cut up a homeowner’s damaged trees but disappear without cleaning up the stumps or limbs, leaving the homeowner’s yard a mess.

Be wary of contractors who:
• Show up unexpectedly after a storm.
• Ask for a large down payment, such as half or more of the total cost.
• Ask for payment in cash.
• Tell you to sign over your insurance check.
• Don’t provide identification.
• Don’t tell you about your cancellation rights.
• Have a negative track record or no track record at all.

Before entering into a contract or making a payment:
• Research the business. Obtain the name, address, and phone number of any contractor offering to do work for you. Check for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Conduct a basic Internet search of the business’s name and words like “complaints,” “reviews,” or “scam.” Contact other customers to ask about their experiences with a contractor. Ask neighbors or friends for recommendations. Don’t accept services from a contractor who refuses to provide proper identification.
• Get multiple estimates. Consider getting estimates from at least three different contractors. Be wary if one contractor quotes a price that is dramatically lower than the prices other businesses are offering. The contractor later may demand more money or fail to complete the work as promised.
• Don’t make large payments in advance. Be wary of contractors who demand large upfront payments, such as half or more of the total cost. Also be wary of contractors who ask you to sign over your insurance check. Try to pay in increments, as the work is completed to your satisfaction.
• Get a detailed written contract. Insist on a written contract detailing the costs, the work to be done, the starting and end dates, and any verbal promises made by the contractor.
• Understand your cancellation rights. If the contract resulted from a door-to-door sale, you generally have three days to cancel the contract, according to Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. The seller should give you written notice of these rights.
• Consider paying with a credit card. Paying with a credit card generally gives you greater protections to dispute unauthorized charges, especially compared to paying in cash.

If you suspect a scam report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.