How to protect yourself from construction scams

  • By Angie Hicks
  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014 4:25pm
  • Life

It’s a four-letter word no homeowner ever wants to hear: Scam.

The more you know, though, the less likely it is that you’ll fall victim to one on your next home improvement project.

Doing due diligence before you hire is generally the best protection against unscrupulous operators.

Popular scams

In 2013, our team heard tales of shoddy and unfinished work, as well as accounts of contractors that weren’t appropriately licensed or took money without starting promised work.

Another problem included requiring excessive payment upfront. Although it’s normal for a contractor to ask for up to a third of the total cost before starting, you should be wary if they ask for more.

It’s best to negotiate a price that you’re comfortable with before signing a contract.

In some cases, homeowners paid excessive amounts upfront and the contractor never even showed up.

Also be wary of scare tactics. This could include a contractor suggesting extra, expensive repairs and suggesting that dire consequences will follow if you don’t act immediately.

In such cases, get a second opinion from a highly rated contractor and be sure to have a detailed written contract in place before starting any work.

The elderly and victims of weather disasters were common scam targets in 2013, as they tend to be at all times.

In general, our research team found that common service categories in which scams were reported in 2013 included HVAC, landscaping, remodeling, roofing and moving.

If you’re a target

If you’ve experienced shoddy work or been the victim of unscrupulous practices, consider filing a complaint with your state’s attorney general’s office or contractors’ board, and warn other potential customers by writing an online review about the company.

If the contractor is bonded, you may be entitled to reimbursement by the issuing agent.

In cases where you need additional assistance, consider hiring an attorney to explore your options.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. © 2014, www.angieslist.com

More in Life

How did 300 feathers get stuck in that old utility pole?

Artful adornment in Everett is the creation of a retired Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.

‘Found’: Author and climber a 20-year veteran of mountain rescue

In her second book, Bree Loewen shares her experiences of volunteering with Seattle Mountain Rescue.

Herb Alpert aims to uplift the world in two recent albums

The Tijuana Brass bandleader releases a Christmas record and an album of covers.

Prioritizing permanence and putting down roots

Adapted from a recent online discussion. Dear Carolyn: I’m at a loss… Continue reading

Foo Fighters bounce back with new album ‘Concrete and Gold’

Foo Fighters, “Concrete and Gold”: Can you hate the Foo Fighters? Not… Continue reading

How to shop in the street markets of France

It’s the best way to connect with the nation’s farmers and artisans.

Stock your winter bookshelf with these animal and nature reads

Four new books cover outdoors topics from butterflies to wolves.

Newfangled cooker isn’t for those with tried and true methods

Columnist Jennifer Bardsley recently succumbed to peer pressure and purchased an Instant Pot.

Now is the time to assess your student’s back-to-school plan

Take a good look at how your kids are managing their new routine, class, teacher(s) and homework.

Most Read