Steer Clear of Home Repair Scams this Summer
Attorney General Josh Stein
Summers can be a great time to make home repairs and improvements. But this summer, contractors may need to raise their prices to keep up with higher costs from supply chain issues and worker shortages. Reliable and trustworthy contractors will raise prices only as much as they need to. You need to be on the lookout for scammers who take advantage of the situation by charging high costs without cause or do shoddy, unreliable work that leaves you in the lurch. Here are some tips to save your hard-earned money.
Always do your research about a company before you decide to do business with them. Don’t be fooled by a salesperson’s promises or a flashy website. Look up their services online to view customer reviews and ensure that the company is legitimate. Check with the Better Business Bureau and our office’s Consumer Protection Division to learn if consumers filed complaints about the company. Also, check to make sure the contractor is licensed – by law, a contractor must be licensed if a project costs $30,000 or more.
Get written estimates from at least three companies before doing business. Gathering multiple offers will help ensure that you aren’t getting ripped off with unfair prices.
Always insist on a written contract and know about your right to cancel. Under state law, you can cancel a contract up to three days after you sign, and the contract must provide instructions on how to cancel, if: (1) the contractor or representative personally solicits you; (2) the agreement takes place somewhere other than the contractor’s place of business; and (3) you did not initiate the contact and ask the contractor to visit your home to do the work. If you have the right to cancel, and if you change your mind or spot a red flag about the contract within three days, you must notify the contractor in writing. Also, if a contractor or appliance company asks you to sign a contract on an electronic tablet, you should insist on getting a printed copy of the contract then and there, especially if the three-day right to cancel applies.
Beware of anyone who shows up at your house and offers to fix a problem you weren’t aware of. Scammers often offer a quick fix for what they claim are needed repairs of your roof, driveway, or something else for a great price. They will also start work on one repair and then claim they spotted other urgent problems that need fixing. Never fall for these tricks. Instead, you should always get a second opinion from a company you trust before starting work.
Do not pay for work before it is completed. Bad actors often convince people to pay for work but never complete it. If a down payment is required to buy materials, use a credit card to make the payment. You can dispute the charge if the job isn’t finished. Then pay on a schedule as the work is completed, and do not make the final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
Last year, our office received more than 800 reports of home improvement issues. Many people are having trouble finding a contractor due to increased demand – and scammers will look to take advantage of people’s desperation. If you believe that you have been the victim of a scam, report the incident to the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Division. Call our office at 877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at https://ncdoj.gov/complaint.