Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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ALBANY – A consumer alert warns homeowners to protect themselves against home repair scams, which may arise in the wake of the recent flooding that occurred on Long Island.
Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services, said, “While most businesses are honest, there is typically an upswing in home repair scams after natural disasters. That is why it’s important to shop around for several repair estimates and get written contracts describing exactly what work needs to be done and how much it will cost. Homeowners should also just say no to anything that sounds suspicious or too good to be true.”
Homeowners can protect themselves by looking out for common warning signs of home repair scams. Homeowners should beware of anyone who:
- Comes to your home or calls you on the phone offering to make repairs.
- Tells you that you must make repairs immediately or offers discounts if you buy their services today.
- Pressures you to sign a contract immediately.
- Tells you that they are doing work in your neighborhood and that they have extra materials left from another job.
- Is not an established local business, but has come to the area from somewhere else to “help.”
Homeowners should avoid unlicensed contractors in areas where a license is required, such as Nassau and Suffolk Counties. In addition, homeowners are urged to avoid contractors who:
- Don't supply references or whose references can't be reached.
- Tell you there's no need for a written contract. By law, all contracts for $500 or more must be in writing, but it's a good idea to get a written contract even for smaller projects
- Only have a P.O. Box address or a cell phone number
- Cannot supply proof of insurance
- Ask you to get required building permits. It could mean that the contractor is unlicensed or has a bad track record, and is therefore reluctant to deal with the local building inspector. However, you should verify with your local building department that all necessary permits have been obtained by the contractor.
- Ask for money to buy materials before starting a job. Reliable, established contractors can buy materials on credit.
- Demand payment in cash or want full payment up front, before work has begun. Instead, find a contractor who will agree to a payment schedule providing for an initial down payment and subsequent incremental payments until the work is completed.
Homeowners with disputes involving home improvement contractors can file complaints with the New York State Department of State at www.dos.ny.gov or by calling 1-800-697-1220.