North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Avoid home repairs that could leave you in ruins

8/12/2016

By Attorney General Roy Cooper

Summer is a popular time of year for home repairs and renovations—and home repair scams.
 
Home repair scammers will show up at your home and point out a problem that may not really exist, like a roof about to fall in or signs that your driveway needs repaving. They’ll offer to do the job immediately and promise quality work at a great price. Instead, these fraudsters charge you money upfront and do shoddy work, if any at all.
 
My office has fought to protect North Carolinians from home repair scammers for years. We’ve won court orders for money back for consumers from paving, roofing and other contractors that charged thousands of dollars for home repairs done poorly or never completed. To tell us about a home repair job gone bad, call us toll-free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a consumer complaint online at ncdoj.gov.

But we’d rather help you avoid losing money to home repair fraud in the first place by following these tips:

  • Just say no to door-to-door offers. If someone knocks on your door with an offer to repave your driveway, patch your roof, or fix something they say is broken, just say no. Be wary of anyone who makes you an unsolicited offer for repairs. Remember: most legitimate service providers don’t go door to door in search of work.
 
  • Do your research. Get multiple recommendations from trusted neighbors, friends, and family members. Know that scammers frequently change company names when complaints start to catch up with them. Call my office at-1-877-5-NO-SCAM or your local Better Business Bureau to check for past complaints.
 
  • Avoid too-good-to-be-true deals. Be suspicious of offers for home repairs like carpet cleaning or HVAC work for incredibly low prices. Once one of these companies starts the work, they may claim that they’ve found unforeseen problems with your home and then pressure you into buying expensive treatments you don’t really need.
 
  • Get estimates, then compare them. Once you’ve narrowed your list of potential candidates to hire, ask them to submit written offers for your review before you make your choice.
 
  • Check references. After you pick a company, go over their references carefully. Ask for the name of their insurance provider and contact the company to make sure their policy is active, especially if you are having major repairs like roofing, painting or tree removal done.
 
  • Ask for credentials. For certain jobs, check with professional boards to make sure the person you’re hiring is licensed to do the work.
    • For General Contractors, visit nclbgc.org or call (919) 571-4138
    • For Electricians, visit ncbeec.org or call (919) 733-9042
    • For Plumbers or HVAC Contractors, visit nclicensing.org or call (919) 875-3612

  • Get a written contract. The contract should explain in clear terms what work will be done, when the job starts, and about how long it will take. The contract should also state the total cost of the job, the quality of the materials to be used, and who is responsible for cleanup. Be sure to save a copy for your records.
 
  • Know your rights. Under North Carolina law, you get three business days to cancel any contract you sign at your home. The three day period begins the day you sign and the salesman is required to inform you of this right. If you want to cancel the work, follow the cancellation terms in your contract and notify the seller in writing before your time is up.
 
And most importantly:
 
  • Don’t pay for repairs upfront. You may have to make a down payment on home repairs, but never pay for the whole job in advance. Ask the company if you can make payments as phases of the job are completed, and avoid making the final payment until you’re satisfied with the work.
 
Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff want North Carolina homeowners to get their money’s worth. We are here if you need assistance, but through consumer education efforts like these columns we hope to help homeowners avoid problems from the start. 
 
Note to editors: This is one in a series of columns that the Attorney General is distributing to educate consumers. If you have questions, please contact us at news@ncdoj.gov.