We’ve talked about fraud contractors before. It never seems like we can say enough on the topic. We hear about contractor fraud stories every week. That's why TrustedPros wants to provide more advice tp help homeowners avoid being scammed.
Be on high guard after severe weather
Fraudsters will take advantage of a market that is in high demand. Fraud “businesses” can crop up quickly in the event of wide-scale emergency repairs. It’s easy for them to take advantage of desperate and vulnerable homeowners who need flood remediation or roof repairs.
Residents in San Antonio, Texas have reported contractor scams after 3 severe hail storms hit the city. Home damages from severe weather are usually covered by your home insurance plan. Your insurance company will connect you with a reputable contractor if you claim these damages. However, folks who decide to pay out of pocket should be extra-careful before they hire anyone.
- Choose a company that has no real consumer reputation, and only has newspaper ads or online classified ads.
- Trust a company based on a neighbourhood lawn sign.
- Trust a company without signage on their van, or clothing.
- Follow through with a company that pressures you into a project.
- Read client reviews. Check their profile on trustedpros.ca.
- Check their trade licensing credentials with your provincial trade government.
- Check their business license with your city.
Be overcautious with your payments
Albertans might be familiar with one local fraudster. He ripped off his clients by making up excuses that pulled at their heart strings. He also persisted that he needed "more time" for his work. The contractor was able to get his clients to pay for projects before they were finished, or pay for materials that never arrived.
Another Pointe Claire, Quebec couple complained that their contractor took $30,000 from them, and then he abandoned the project. It’s difficult to predict the stability of any small company. However, there are definite rules to follow that can help you avoid getting into these sticky situations.
- Ask the contractor for business references. Business references will attest to the contractor’s reliability on a professional level. It will help you learn more about the type of person you are working with.
- Have everything documented on paper from materials receipts to labour hours. Make sure you have a signed copy of the contract. You can launch an investigation into any issue if you have hard evidence.
- Be skeptical about excuses. In an office environment, excuses for incomplete projects aren’t taken lightly. The same goes for this field. Be ready to investigate any unwarranted excuse that your contractor gives you. Don't be afraid to put your foot down when you’ve had enough. It is acceptable to withhold payments if projects are incomplete or if deadlines are not met!
- Set strict deadlines with strict payment regulations. Payment increments should be due for completed work. All workers are paid weekly, or bi-weekly for their labour. Workers aren’t pre-paid for their labour. Don't believe a contractor who claims that they "need" labour payments in advance.
- Payment increments should be subject to the progress of your project, with the highest percentage of the payment due at the very end of the project, once it is complete. You can always find someone to complete a project for you if your contractor mysteriously leaves the scene.
- Only pay for materials once they are in your hands. You may even want to consider purchasing materials yourself from a supplier. Even if your contractor takes off, you can find someone to use the materials, and complete your project.
Look out for your loved ones
Fraud contractors love to prey on vulnerable people. Unfortunately, seniors are a target. The elderly are less acquainted with online resources to help them research contractors.
Additionally, those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are a popular target for fraudsters. These contractors trick vulnerable seniors into paying for incomplete projects. This recently happened in Calgary, when fraudsters managed to steal $45,500 from 4 different elderly people.
- Help your loved ones find reputable contractors on trustedpros.ca
- Keep an eye on your loved ones’ spending habits. This will help you catch fraud scams quickly.
- Offer to be the executor of their home improvement projects. Remain in control the contractors who repair the home, and when it happens.
- Check in with your loved ones often. Ask about any problems that need fixing, and contractors that they have been in touch with.
- Warn and remind your loved ones about upfront payment scams. You should never pay for work before it has been completed. You should also avoid paying medium to large up-front deposits.
- Check every contractor’s city and trade license before you hire them.
- Call your city police about any scams that you are aware of.
Get multiple quotes before you start any project
Getting in touch with the contractor community can be more helpful than you expect. Asking experts about your project, how long it should take, and how much it should cost will give you a rough outline of the industry standard. Use our Ask the Pros Forum to post a question about your project.
Use these quotes as a benchmark for comparison. Be wary of any contractor who flaunts a cheaper price for a shorter timeline. Industry experts give estimates because they know how procedures work. Fraudsters give estimates to get you interested enough to pay up front, and then steal your money.Posted by: Nicole Silver