8 Ways to Spot a Home Repair Scam

Aug 19, 2019

The weather isn’t the only thing you need to watch out for during monsoon season – after a major storm, homeowners need to be cautious of roofing and other home repair scams.  

Home repair scams are more common than you may think – and not just in Arizona during monsoon season. In 2017 consumers reported nearly 350 home improvement scams to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), costing homeowners more than $600,000 in losses.

A contractor can con a homeowner in a number of ways, from doing sloppy work that requires more repair down the line to leaving a job unfinished, or even making off with their pay and doing no work at all.  

Don’t let this happen to you! Read on for eight ways to spot a home repair scam:

1. Contractors show up at your door … uninvited!

The smiling contractor at your door claiming to have recently done work in your neighborhood just happened to notice your home can use some repairs, too. They suggest you hire them to do it for you –all for a great price, of course.

While there’s a small chance it’s a rookie contractor just trying to build a referral base, it’s far more likely that your uninvited visitor is a scammer – who’ll end up doing sloppy work, leave the job half-finished or disappear with your money. If the contractor does seem legit, look them up on the BBB website and ask for references before hiring.

2. The contractor insists on being paid up front

While most contractors will ask for a deposit toward their final fee when you hire them, be wary of any contractor who demands you pay more than a third of the total fee up front. This is likely a scammer who’s trying to cover their bases in case of shoddy work or even a no-show.

3. The contractor refuses to supply references

Never hire a contractor without speaking to someone who’s used their services in the past. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises homeowners to ask past customers detailed questions about a contractor’s work, including the projected and actual project timeline, as well as final cost. If a contractor is in the middle of another job, ask if you can check out their work yourself.

If a contractor refuses to furnish names and contact information of previous clients, it may be best to look for another option.

4. There’s negative information about the contractor online

Before hiring any small business you’ve never used, it’s a good idea to check them out on online, including sites like the BBBYelpAngie’s List and Google reviews. You can read reviews and ratings and see if any complaints have been filed against the company with the BBB.

5. The contractor demands payment in cash

The FTC recommends paying contractors with a check or credit card so you can contest the charges if something goes wrong. Cash leaves no trail and makes it easy for a scammer to walk away from a job without doing much (or any) work at all.

6. The contractor will do the work for a really cheap price

Don’t get conned by a contractor who significantly underbids all competitors. You might get lucky and find someone who is just starting out and can still do great work, or you might be dealing with someone who will cut every corner and end up costing you more than you thought you were saving. If you’re offered a bid that is a lot lower than the going price for the work, ask a lot of questions. If you only get evasive answers, look elsewhere.

7. The contractor refuses to put anything in writing

Never hire anyone to do work on your home without a written contract. The BBB advises homeowners to include as many details as possible in the contract, such as payment terms, a definitive date for the start and completion of the project, warranty information and a clear description of the job.

8. They try to avoid permits

A contractor who tries to convince you there’s no need to pull permits is one who wants to avoid the authorities! You’re likely dealing with an unlicensed worker or someone who will cut corners wherever possible. The lack of proper permits can also cause you problems down the line when you try to sell your home.

Don’t get ripped off by a scammer! Do your homework before hiring any contractors this (or any) season – to help ensure your home improvement project goes smoothly and without unpleasant surprises!