Spring will soon be here, and so will warmer weather and more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Here in the Midwest, Spring can also bring storms, flooding, hail and tornados. Severe spring weather could leave you looking for help with home repairs. While there are many legitimate businesses that offer home repair services, it is important to be cautious in order to avoid home-related repair fraud.
This can be especially true when an area experiences severe weather that results in a large number of insurance claims being made. It’s also common for the elderly to be prime targets for these repair schemes, since many seniors own their homes and frequently need help with repairs. However, with damage left by flooding or other disasters, people of any age could become victims if they aren’t careful.
Warning signs to watch for include:
- Someone comes to your door with materials left over from another job
- Prices are much lower than other estimates
- The price is only available today
- The company uses a post office box and has no street address or telephone number
- Full payment is due before the work is completed
- The contractor will not give you references
In order to get the job done right, know what you want done before talking with legitimate, local contractors. Ask for identification before letting anyone into your home. Get detailed estimates, in writing, from several reputable, licensed contactors and find out if the contractors are insured and bonded.
It’s important to know who you’re dealing with and be aware that someone showing up on your doorstep may be targeting you. Ask for references, check them and ask about the availability of warranties on repairs or materials used. You can also find out more about potential contractors by looking them up on third party review sites such as www.angieslist.com or www.houzz.com, or see how they rank with your area’s Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).
Finally, get a written contract before the work is started to avoid surprises or misunderstandings, and make sure this includes the company’s address and telephone number. If you suspect fraud, contact local authorities immediately and your state’s Attorney General’s Office (in MO, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline is 800-392-8222).
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
– Janet LaFon, Family Financial Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension