Home Improvement News: Ways to fight back against contractors’ six worst scams

August 29, 2012

Staff Report

Extreme storms may be America’s new norm, so homeowners must doubly protect against bogus repair work by shady contractors, warns the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

Climate change means more frequent and intense storms may be coming, according to a new study. The biggest rain and snow storms are getting bigger, jeopardizing more property and lives across the U.S.

Most home contractors are honest. But extreme weather will attract more shady operators whose bogus repairs can cost homeowners thousands of dollars, the coalition warns.

Routine home fixups and remodeling also invite scams.

Homeowners must be alert to costly repair scams, starting now. Rainstorms, hail, tornadoes and wildfires already are causing considerable home damage this year. Some may reflect climate trends, and more disasters are likely before the year ends.

Dishonest drifters often go door-to-door, especially after disasters. Fixing bad repair work also can take months of headaches, and the victim’s homeowner policy may not cover fraudulent repairs.

Roofer inquiries have ranked No. 1 for five straight years by the Better Business Bureau.

Homeowners can better ensure repairs are done right by knowing how to find an honest and reputable contractor.

Six worst scams

1. Disappearing downpayment. The contractor demands a large downpayment, then disappears after doing little or no work.

2. Shoddy work. The work is low quality, using cheap materials. You may have to redo the entire job, often at your own expense.

3. Phantom damage. A contractor invents storm damage. Nicking sidewall or roof shingles with a screwdriver to mimic hail damage is one come-on.

4. Worsens damage. Contractors enlarge holes in a roof to increase their billings. Billing for phantom work is another ruse.

5. Pay your deductible. Offering to pay your insurance deductible is a con to lure your business.

6. Insurer go-between. The contractor elbows in as the go-between with your insurer. You lose control over your valuable claim.

Six ways to fight back

1. Avoid door-to-door drifters. Stick with reputable contractors based locally or in your region.

2. Verify license. Contact your state and local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor is licensed.

3. Contact local Better Business Bureau. See if the contractor has a history of complaints, and a BBB review.

4. Work with your insurance company and agent. Don’t let the contractor do the talking. Work directly with your insurer and agent to ensure the repairs are done right and covered damages are paid.

5. Insist on a contract. Have a signed contract specifying exactly what work will be done, plus the price and repair schedule.

6. Watch for red flags. No business cards or referrals … P.O. Box instead of a street address … van looks rundown and has no company name … poor personal appearance … can’t show proof of workers’ compensation insurance or surety/performance bond.

From the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2012, issue

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