Avoid being victim of unnecessary home repairs

With the increase in temperature, many home owners are venturing outside and thinking about their homes and an after winter cleanup.

OPP Constable Mark Cloes said the county OPP is advising residents about the more popular home improvement scams, and is offering a few tips to help people protect themselves from unscrupulous contractors.

There are many different home improvement scams and some of those are variations of others. Many homeowners are more vulnerable because they do not know much – or anything – about home repair or home improvements.

“Scam artists like to take advantage of what you don’t know,” Cloes said.

Here are some of the more common home improvement scams:

Special deal; today only

Beware a contractor who says he is just passing through the neighborhood, has materials left over from another job, or who wants his payment up front.

Contractors begin the construction, but once they have the money, they may not return to complete the work. Or they may complete the job, but do substandard work.

Sometimes they talk a homeowner into unnecessary repairs. Some repairmen, if allowed to enter the home, will create more damage – so they can repair that as well.

Cloes said scam contractors might also look for jewelry, money or weapons while working in the home. By the time the owner realizes valuables have been stolen, the contractor may be long gone.

Cloes said established contractors should have enough business through advertising and referrals that they do not need to go door to door to get work. If a contractor has really brought materials from another job, he is cheating his previous customer out of their purchase.

Recommendations: Work only with licenced contractors. Verify the business phone and address, and check on the Internet or with the Better Business Bureau to see if previous customers have reported complaints.

Be suspicious of a contractor who drives a truck with no company name or is from another area. Contract needed work with companies that you know. Do not be pressured by promises of one-day deals.

Cheap-work scams

Some scam artists will do the work they are contracted for, but the result is a shoddy product.  

Here are some common schemes used by contractors looking to make a quick dollar:

– driveway sealant The scam artist offers to seal a driveway at a deep discount, but uses cheap materials that wear off in a few months.

– chimney repair The homeowner sees an ad in the local Newspaper to clean gutters at a cheap price. After finishing the job the worker tells you the chimney is in dire need of repair.

– hot tar roofing Contractors sometimes sell those by mailing flyers, telemarketing or by going door to door. The low-priced job sometimes uses substandard materials. When heavy rains cause roof leaks, the home’s interior could be damaged.

– duct cleaning The scam artist uses a small vacuum cleaner that stirs up dust and other contaminants without removing them. It is very unusual that ducts would need to be cleaned. Mold will collect only if the filtering has been inadequate.

OPP recommendations: Follow the advice of a reputable contractor if deciding to proceed with any of those or other home improvement projects. It’s always good to obtain a couple quotes from different contractors as well.

Cloes concluded, “Always make sure the work truly needs to be done. And realize that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“Also be cautious of aggressive sales people. You do have the right to say ‘no’ to the sale. If they refuse to leave or if you feel threatened by an over zealous sales pitch, call OPP Communications Centre at 1-888-310-1122.