With nicer Fall weather here and homeowners and businesses looking to get in some repair and remodeling projects before winter, the Rochester Police Dept would like to issue some tips about home improvement scams and provide tips for consumers to avoid being victimized by contractors.
Before contacting a contractor or home improvement business to come to your house to look at your project to give you an estimate or to take on your project, do your research on that contractor and/or business before you call them. You can easily research complaints against contractors and businesses that have been filed with the New Hampshire Department of Justice/Attorney Generals Consumer Protection Bureau as well as the Better Business Bureau. Copy and Paste these websites to look up complaints and read reviews before reaching out to them and especially before agreeing to hire them to do your work.
NH Dept of Justice: http://doj.nh.gov/consumer/complaints/index.htm
Although New Hampshire is home to many reputable and hard-working home contractors, home improvement scams are one of the most common issues reported to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. Consumers have reported that contractors have taken deposits or down payments without completing any agreed-upon work, stopped communicating with the consumer after collecting a deposit, and then not completing the agreed-upon work and not issuing refunds for work not completed, even if they appear reputable.
- The Rochester Police Department offers the following advice for consumers looking to hire a home contractor:
- Remember that honest contractors earn the majority of their business through referrals from satisfied customers. They don’t have to travel door-to-door to find business or rush consumers into projects.
- Seek out at least three written, itemized estimates when planning a home repair or improvement project. Ask contractors to justify their estimates by listing the work and materials included.
- Research each contractor. Ask for references from past jobs and suppliers the contractor uses. Ask each contractor for proof of insurance. Check each contractor’s address.
- Always have a written contract before any work is done or any payment made. Inspect contract terms carefully before signing and agreeing to any offer. Ensure that the contract includes a detailed scope of work, including the work to be done, the materials to be used, the total price for the job, and the schedule of payments. It’s always nice to provide an approximate timeline for your projects start date and estimated time to complete the project.
- Do not pay using an electronic payment app such as “Zelle,” or “Venmo.” Never agree to a cash-only deal.
The Rochester Police Department warns consumers to be on the lookout for the following warning signs if they are engaging with a home contractor:
- The contractor solicits work in person. Often, the contractor says they “just happened to be in the neighborhood,” “were working in the area,” or “noticed that your home needed repairs.”
- The contractor arrives in an unmarked vehicle, is from far away, or arrives without much equipment.
- The contractor does not allow time for other estimates. Sometimes the contractor will say they cannot come back another time.
- The contractor will not provide an address and telephone number, or the contractor will provide an address that is a post office box or temporary address.
- The contractor asks for a down payment that is over 50% of the final cost, or asks for full payment before the job is completed.
- The contractor offers a price that is far below other offers. The contractor may justify this price by saying a project will serve as a “model” or that the contractor can use materials left over from another job. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- The contractor will only accept payment by Zelle, Venmo, or other electronic money transfer service.
- The contractor insists on being paid in cash.
- The contractor says that they are able to do electrical work, inspections, plumbing, septic, well pump work, asbestos abatement, or lead abatement without a license.
- The contractor’s work proposal lacks details.
To report concerns about a home improvement scam in Rochester, contact the Rochester Police Department at 603-330-7127.
File a complaint with the New Hampshire Department of Justice:
Consumer Protection Bureau
Office of the Attorney General
33 Capitol St.
Concord, NH 03301Consumer Protection Hotline: 1-888-468-4454
Online Complaint Form: http://doj.nh.gov/consumer/complaints/index.htm
Contact the Better Business Bureau for information on contractors:
Better Business Bureau
48 Pleasant St.
Concord, NH 03301