Home improvements not only make a house more functional, they also add beauty and resale value. While there are many dependable, highly skilled contractors, unfortunately, some are not. When planning renovations this summer, use these tips to tell a really good deal from just a scam.
Types of Home Improvement Fraud
Does the roof need replacing? Is the siding of your home a little worse for wear? Have you wanted to build a ground floor addition where the old garage used to be? Home improvement fraud comes in all kinds of guises such as driveway repair, replacing the roof, siding repairs or replacement and “fixing” structural issues.
Fortunately, there are identifiable warning signs that can help a potential victim avoid home improvement fraud. The most common signs are fraudulent “contractors” will:
- appear on your doorstep claiming they were in the neighbourhood or they had done renovations for someone on your street
- quote a very low price
- offer special deals – only good for one day; free paint; discount because materials were leftover from another job
- tell you the work they do will be covered by your home insurance policy – most policies don’t cover the costs of home improvements
- want payment before the work begins – possible indication that they don’t have the money to buy materials or they have no intention of doing the renovation
- have no permanent indicators of a company affiliation like a truck with a logo, legitimate licenses/certifications, and proper contact information (YP listing, real website, etc.)
Ways to Prevent from being Scammed
Nice weather seems to bring out the itinerant roofers, pavers, landscapers, and gutters and siding installers intent on not providing the services they promise. To prevent from being scammed:
- check all credentials, licenses and any other documentation they provide – if something doesn’t look or feel right, confirm with the appropriate board, agency or municipal office; legit businesses have a paper trail that can be followed
- insist on an itemized estimate that clearly outlines what work is to be done, material costs, labour costs, and a stated percentage of how much more than the original estimate can be charged
- avoid unsolicited offers; get a recommendation from a family member or co-worker
- don’t cave into someone else’s sense of urgency – if they talk too fast, offer a low price if you sign right now, or pressure you into making a decision, ask yourself why or what are they hiding?