In the wake of recent storms, Attorney General Mike DeWine has issued a warning regarding traveling contractors. He cautions Ohioans that some contractors may try to take advantage of desperate storm victims as they struggle to rebuild their homes.
“After severe weather hits, it’s important to be vigilant about home improvement scams,” DeWine said. “Some contractors track storms so that they can travel to affected communities to offer their services to homeowners who experience damage. Unfortunately many of these ‘storm-chasers’ do not follow Ohio laws and do nothing to help consumers.”
DeWine offers the following tips for homeowners who are looking for contractors and/or other repair or removal services:
- Research the contractor before signing any contract. Obtain the name, address, and phone number of any contractor agreeing to do work for you. Ask for identification from the company’s representative. Check out consumer complaints with the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.
- Be cautious. Do not accept services from any contractor who refuses to provide proper identification, does not have a permanent place of business, cannot provide references, or insists on a large payment before work begins.
- Get written estimates. Do some shopping and get estimates from more than one contractor. Refuse to do business with a company that does not provide a written estimate.
- Get a sworn statement. Insist that the contractor provide you with a sworn statement that all materials have been paid for and all subcontractors have been paid. This will protect you from liens which may be placed on your property if the contractor fails to pay all suppliers and subcontractors.
- Never sign over your insurance check to a contractor. If you are financing the transaction, arrange for a certificate of completion with your bank. The bank will pay the contractor for each completed stage of the job only after you give your permission.
- Be wary of a demand for a large down payment (more than one third of the total cost) and/or the use of high-pressure sales tactics.
- Be cautious of people who knock on your door and want to do the work immediately. Businesses who solicit you at your home are required to give a three-day right to cancel and should not begin the work before the three days. Consumers may waive this right.
If your vehicle was damaged in the storm, contact your insurance company to determine what your plan covers. If you take your vehicle to a repair shop, you have the right to a verbal or written estimate if the anticipated cost of the repair or service is more than $25. In general, if the cost will be more than 10 percent of the original estimate, the shop must get your approval for the additional costs.
Ohioans who have questions about a contractor or those who believe they have been treated unfairly should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 1-800-282-0515.
Source: “Beware Of Traveling Contractor Scams Following Storms, Attorney General DeWine Warns” Fayette Advocate, June 17, 2013.