Home Repair Scams: Don’t let contractors fool you.

The following information is from an article first published by the Iowa Attorney General’s office.

You care about your home, and you put a lot of work into making it a comfortable place to spend your time. But some things are beyond your abilities. Iowa’s spring weather can wreak havoc on your home. From hailstorms that damage roofs and siding to flooding that damages lower levels and basements, sometimes you need help. And that’s perfectly okay.

Sadly, there are people out there who pose as contractors. They offer to help, demand payment upfront, and then run off with your money and all those repairs still remaining. Other contractors simply continue to find problems that need immediate attention and raise the costs of repairs. Not all contractors are out to prey on you. Here are some tips to differentiate between the good ones and bad ones:

  • Ask trusted family members and friends who they’ve worked with. It’s easier to trust someone who has already done a good job and performed well in the past.
  • Be wary of contractors who stop by or happen to be in the neighborhood. Most trustworthy contractors are too busy to beg for your business – especially after a large storm.
  • Look online to see if the contractors have any complaints. You can use the company’s name to see if there are any complaints, reviews, or other information about the contractor online.
  • Get a quote on the work in writing. Have the contractor say exactly what work will be done and how much it will cost in writing. A formal bid will also help you determine which contractor to work with.
  • Don’t feel pressure to start immediately. Any trustworthy contractor is unlikely to offer limited-time offers or other pressure-inducing situations.
  • Before the contractor begins, have a signed contract in place between you and the contractor. This will protect you in the event that something does happen.
  • Remember to read the fine print on the contract and ensure start dates and completion dates along with costs of labor and materials is included. The contractor’s name, address, phone number, and license number should also be included.
  • Keep any deposits on the small side. A deposit should be a show of good faith, and it should not be more than a third of the estimate.
  • Use checks or credit cards to pay. Don’t pay in cash, which is harder to track and account for later.
  • Leave building permits in the contractor’s responsibilities. You are not required to do that.
  • Secure your own financing. Don’t allow the contractor to influence your decisions in terms of how much to spend and where to borrow from.
  • If using your homeowners’ insurance to pay for damage, understand what your homeowners’ insurance will pay for, and if additional damage is found or changes are made to the original list of repairs, get the new services approved for payment by the insurance company.

By being careful about who you allow to repair your home, you can alleviate stress and get your home back in top shape.

Remember, the team of state government officials at the Iowa Insurance Division are here to help you. You can report scams here.

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