IDAHO — With the recent snowfall in the Treasure Valley, some people may be looking to make home repairs. But, unfortunately, that can open the door to scammers.
Rebecca Barr with the Better Business Bureau says the aftermath of a winter storm can often bring out contractors looking to take advantage of those who've experienced property damage. It can be a stressful situation for homeowners who want to get the damage fixed right away, but Barr says to be careful not to make a bad situation worse by rushing through the process.
Every year BBB receives hundreds of Scam Tracker reports and thousands of complaints when it comes to the home improvement industry, from roofers and plumbers to HVAC and landscapers.
If you are in need of professional help, Barr says take your time to vet a business before hiring them for the job.
First, beware of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting business. Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver.
Next, do your research when selecting a company. Know their reputation, how they handle business, and what their customers are saying about them. Barr says if they have complaints, find out how they responded.
Finally, ask for references from friends and family and get three estimates from different companies. Make sure the contractors have proof of their licenses and insurance. If you are looking at a big project, ask if a permit is required for the project.
Once you've selected a company, avoid high-pressure sales pitches. Some pitches may try to repair the problem while also up-charging you to a system or fix you may not need. Barr says that's one of the reasons it's important to take the time to get different estimates.
Before a project starts, you may need to make a down payment but avoid paying in full before work is complete. Do not make the final payment until the job is completed and meets your standards. Pay by credit card when possible; avoid paying by cash or unusual forms of payment.
Ask the contractor for a written agreement that clearly includes all of the project details. The contract should consist of: contact information, payment schedule, estimated completion date, materials being used and their cost, warranties, and any specific promises. Never sign a blank contract or any contract without reading it thoroughly, and keep a copy of the contract after the job is completed in case there is an issue.
For more ways to keep your information and finances safe, click here.