Beware scam artists posing as contractors

Warmer spring weather draws out something else besides pretty blooms – scam artists posing as contractors.

The Better Business Bureau consistently warns homeowners that one of the top complaints they receive year after year is of so-called contractors who promise the world at rock bottom prices to unsuspecting consumers eager to get work done on their home during warmer weather months.

Contractor Scam

The Better Business Bureau and the Texas Attorney General receives complaints about a variety of scams, including contractors who accept a payment and then never show up to do the work, those who do show up but do shoddy work with subpar material, and those who show up and do the work but never finish the job.

Some of these contractors are smooth operators, sometimes preying on vulnerable populations such as senior citizens and other times offering homeowners a deal they find hard to turn down.

Watch out for these red flags:

Full payment upfront. Beware of any contractor who demands a payment in full before a job even starts or is complete. It is typical for a contractor to request a deposit as a good  faith payment but a full payment should not be required until the contractor finishes the job.

Lack of contract. Any contractor who does not provide a detailed contract is highly suspect. A contract protects both the owner and the contractor by setting forth in detail what is expected, when and for how much.

Quick decision. Be careful of contractors that pressure you to hire them. You shouldn’t feel too rushed to make an informed decision with ample time to check out the contractor and compare prices.

Extra Materials. Some scam artists go door-to-door, claiming to have just finished up a neighbor’s job and offering you a good deal with the leftover material from that job.

How can you tell whether a contractor is legitimate and will do the job you need?

Steps to protect yourself from scam artists:

  • Get a written estimate of the work. Obtain written estimates from at least two different contractors. Three is better.
  • Check the contractor’s references, licenses and insurance. Anybody can provide photos from previous jobs, but make sure they are previous jobs done by the contractor you are hiring. The best way to do this is by checking references.
  • Make sure you have a detailed contract that details the job (including materials and any diagrams if necessary), the duration (planned beginning and end dates), and the cost (breakdown of materials and labor).

Finally, you should be aware that Texas state law makes you responsible for paying any subcontractors and suppliers if the contractor fails to pay them. Your property may be subject to a lien if these subcontractors or suppliers are not paid for labor or materials for a job on your home, regardless of whether you had a contract with them or not. This is yet another reason to make sure you are working with a reputable contractor in the first place.

Avoid costly headaches and hassles by doing your homework before signing on the dotted line.

Photo credit: SandTDesign

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