Avoiding Home Repair Fraud
“Home repair and remodeling complaints rank among the most frequently filed with my office’s Consumer Fraud Bureau. … I urge consumers to make sure they’re informed and ask the right questions before they hire a contractor in an effort to avoid this type of fraud.” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
“Each year, Americans spend billions of dollars on good and services, some of which are never delivered, even when there is a signed contract. Home repair work is no different – property owners may sign a contract for work to be done or services provided, but the contractor fails to deliver.” cityofchicago.org
“The need for guidance and protections for consumers extends beyond the disaster zones. [Hurricane] Katrina brought to the surface widespread dangers that can threaten consumers throughout the nation’s quarter-trillion-dollar-a-year home repair industry.
“Despite its immensity, the home repair industry consists mainly of thousands of tiny firms that engage in millions of small transactions annually.” National Consumer Law Center
“…Warm Spring weather usually brings a jump in home repair activity and complaints… springtime usually brings a few vicious scams run by out-of-state traveling con-artists. He said such “fly-by-night” perpetrators typically knock on people’s doors and offer to do a job at a bargain price, usually saying they have material leftover from another job, such as paint or asphalt for driveways…” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller
“Having your own home is the American dream. It is your own little corner of the universe. Don’t trust its construction or remodeling to just anybody. As much time and attention should be spent interviewing and researching a prospective builder or remodeler as would be spent searching for a home or automobile or employee… While most residential contractors operate honest businesses, the number one complaint filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Affairs Division is regarding home repair fraud.” Home Builders License Board, Alabama.
I met with a lady yesterday, here in Columbia, that was worried about choosing the right roofing contractor. She is a single mother of two who had been taken advantage of by another remodelor. Picking the right shingle and siding color wasn’t, to her, as big a deal as picking the right contractor, one she could trust to do the right thing.
Countless times I’ve sat down with homeowners who have spent hours and hours visiting roofing supply companies and websites looking for the exact shingle and shingle color that they want. But when I ask them how they are going to choose the contractor, they say they called three people out of the phonebook and will just pick the cheapest one. Or either they say they don’t know, that they haven’t really thought about it. Does that sound familiar? I hope not. Think about it. You can pick the perfect product to be installed on your house, but if the contractor has no idea how to install it, or the company isn’t viable and disappears in two years, what good is it?
I heard someone say that if we, as a nation, spent as much time planning our marriage as we did planning our wedding, the divorce rate wouldn’t be anywhere near as high. Choosing a roofing company is similar. Make sure you spend a whole heck of alot more time choosing the contractor then you do the product. Because if you get the right contractor, he’ll have the right product.
Here are some things to look for when choosing a contractor:
- Do they have a permanent place of business?
- Do they carry insurance and is the coverage adequate?
- Are they a licensed, registered contractor and in good standing with the trade association and Better Business Bureau?
- How long have they been in business as the same company? (a lot of roofers close down due to complaints and law suits and open up under another name)
- What is their record for complaint resolution?
- What is their workmanship warranty? (don’t believe a 10-20 year warranty when the company isn’t even that old)
- Do they provide sufficient details for the project being performed?
- How do they handle unforeseen or unknown extra costs?
- Can they provide references for you to talk to?
Also, how do you know if the price you are paying is fair for what you are getting? Here are some things to look for when determing whether the price is right:
- Has the contractor done work in the neighborhood? Nothing will spread faster through a neighborhood then someone ripping people off. If they haven’t worked in the neighborhood then talk to people, with a house like yours, that he has worked for.
- Has the contractor done houses similar to yours? Here in South Carolina, like most areas, we have neighborhoods that are twenty-five years old and some that are a hundred. Make sure the contractor has a handle on the specifics of houses like yours or he could be estimating it too high or too low, both are bad.
- Make sure you know what is included and what isn’t. Get a price per linear foot or square foot (whether it is a board roof or a plywood roof) up front so you know what to expect if they find something rotten around the chimney. Be leery of roofers who say all of the woodwork is included. Think about it…how is that possible unless they have a crystal ball? What happens if they find more woodwork than they expected? Basically you get screwed because he won’t be doing it.
Obviously this doesn’t ensure you get the right contractor, but it certainly will put you on the right path.
If you are looking for a Columbia roofing company, please call 803-955-0374 or complete our online request form.