As Spring finally approaches and homeowners around the nation begin to contemplate home improvement projects, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to choose contractors with care to avoid getting scammed.
According to the BBB, the home improvement industry regularly ranks among the top five sources of complaints year after year. Construction and home improvement scams also placed third among the top 10 consumer complaints reported to the Illinois Consumer Protection Division in 2010.To avoid hiring a sub-standard contractor, the BBB advises consumers to be suspicious of handymen who show up at your door, advertise in local newspapers, or put fliers in your mailbox offering a variety of services at bargain-basement prices.
"All it takes is a business card, a cell phone, some photocopied fliers and a hammer for someone to run their own contracting business," BBB President Tom Bartholomy said in a statement. "The contractor who shows up may actually be a 'storm chaser' who is based out-of-state and is using his pick-up truck as an office."
"Homeowners should hire a local contractor with a good track record," Bartholomy added. "There are thousands of reputable contractors who will deliver quality work, on time and within budget."
Below is a BBB homeowner checklist to avoid getting scammed by a home improvement contractor:
10 Tips for Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor
1) Track record -- Check out a company's BBB rating and complaint history at www.bbb.org, which is fast, easy and free.
2) Cost comparisons -- Get at least three bids in writing and compare the bids based on the same warranty, specifications, labor and time.
3) Licensing -- Check to see if the company you plan to hire is properly licensed.
4) Insurance -- Be sure to verify the company's liability insurance to protect you against any damage. You can also check them out with your state's department of insurance.
5) References -- Ask for references from the contractor's previous three jobs and check them out before you sign a contract. Don't hire anyone driving through your neighborhood or who stuffs a flier in your mailbox and claims to be doing work for your neighbors, since he could be from out of state and using his truck as an office.
6) Written contract -- Never allow work to begin without a signed, written contract that includes start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done, and warranty information. Read the fine print carefully.
7) Deposit required and payment -- Never pay a deposit of more than 25% to 33% of the total job cost. Final payment should only be due when the job is completed. Pay by check and credit card, and never by cash.
8) Warranty -- Obtain warranty information in writing on all products and installation and read the fine print carefully.
9) Bonding -- Be sure all workers are employed by the contractor are bonded to protect you against theft and damage.
10) Criminal history -- Check out anyone you allow into your home to see if they have a criminal record.
For more information, visit The Better Business Bureau.
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