There are so many pros to owning your own home, and getting to make it exactly what you want is one of them! You have the ability and freedom to upgrade, design, and improve your home any way you see fit. And while “do it yourself” home improvement crafts can be fun, hiring a professional for your needs is sometimes the best way to go. Unfortunately, there are people out there who will try to take advantage of you in the process. Here are some tips on avoiding home improvement scams.
Be Wary of Door to Door Salesmen
While legitimate contractors and salesmen do in fact go door to door for home improvement jobs, so do a lot of shysters. Most commonly, you will have someone offering to help you lay asphalt or repair your roof. Often times, they will give you a spiel about how they were hired by the city to do whatever job they are offering to do for you, and they have extra material from the work. They will have conveniently noticed that your roof happens to be in need of the same material they have, or they might happen to have an extra truck load of asphalt for your bumpy dirt road. Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General, warns on his website that the most active work for home improvement scams, sadly, is after a natural disaster that has wide spread damage. Do not find yourself in a vulnerable position by giving money to a scammer offering empty promises.
Have a Contract
Any time you have a service you are paying for, it best to have a contract on file signed by both parties. With home improvement jobs, this is an absolute must. You are held responsible for paying the subcontractor, paying for materials, accidents and injuries sustained on your property, city codes and violations, HOA complaints, etc. You must have a clarified document holding everyone involved legally accountable so that you do not end up with law suites, neighborhood complaints, or unsuspected charges. You should also be aware of this clause in your contract.
“Important Notice: You and your contractor are responsible for meeting the terms and conditions of this contract. If you sign this contract and you fail to meet the terms and conditions of this contract, you may lose your legal ownership rights in your home. Know your rights and duties under the law.”
This states that the contractor can put a lien on your home for unmet obligations. In layman’s terms, if you fail to meet the terms of the contract, your contractor can take legal ownership of your property until you meet those terms in full. Because of this law, it is paramount that you have completely read and understand the implications of every word in a contract before you sign it. The repercussions of not doing this could cost you more than you are prepared to offer up.
Pay a Reasonable Amount
It is always nice to find someone at a low price for the job, but often times, you get what you pay for. If someone is lowballing you on a quote, be sure to pay extra close attention to those contract terms. Also, being asked to pay the full amount, or even most of the full amount upfront should be a red flag for a scam. The most common practice is to pay no more than a third of the projected total cost of the whole project and not until the day the work begins. Otherwise, you are handing money over to someone with no guarantee that they will ever show up to begin the work, and if they do actually start the job but you have paid them a lot upfront, you are almost cornered into seeing the project through with them due to your own personal investment. This can cause you to dig yourself a hole that is hard to get out of.