By Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch, MBA
It’s that time of year again: Warmer weather is just around the corner; remodeling season is in full bloom; and scam artists are out and about, looking for the next sucker to believe they are legitimate contractors so they can steal your money.
Don’t let that sucker be you. Here are five ways to spot a fake.
1. A contractor pulls up to your house, uninvited, to offer you a great deal on leftover materials from a job he just finished down the street.
Clue 1: He was uninvited. Never, ever hire someone before you check references, the Better Business Bureau and the contractor’s license from the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, and read online reviews. Why would you let a stranger into your house without knowing his credentials and his track record with other homeowners and social media?
Scam artists who offer you cheap, leftover material inevitably will either raise the price on you once the job starts, or ask for payment up front, and then leave you with the materials and skip town before doing the installation you paid for.
2. The contractor insists that you pay in cash.
No reputable home-improvement firm does that. Legit contractors also don’t use high-pressure tactics or insist on a handshake deal rather than a signed contract.
You want a paper trail when you deal with any kind of contractor. No contract and no credit card receipt or canceled check means you have no proof of what the contractor agreed to do or that you paid him.
3. The price is too good to be true. That usually means it’s not true.
Contractors who offer you special discounts that lower the price more than you know is reasonable aren’t going to do a good job. They’re either planning to do some work but never finish, have no idea how much the job will actually cost—which will cause price increases later, or haven’t added the cost of materials to the estimate and will charge you for the as the job proceeds.
4. The contractor works out of a truck.
Even guys who are just starting out or run a one-man shop should have a business address—even if it’s the same as a home address. Every contractor also should have a bank reference and should be able to give you the names of local vendors and past clients whom you can call to check up on him.
Same goes if the contractor’s truck is dented and dirty; if he doesn’t have good, working equipment; or can’t give you a business card.
5. The contractor tries to scare you into hiring him.
This usually happens when someone pulls up in front of your house and tells you that a tree is about to fall on your roof or you’re missing shingles or another important part of your home. He’ll say you’re in danger if you don’t do the repairs today.
This often happen in the days or weeks after a big storm, when everybody needs home repairs but qualified contractors are hard to find because they’re so busy.
Still, don’t hire that guy. Instead, write down his license plate number and report him to the police.
Scammers bilk homeowners for around $1.4 billion a year with these fraudulent practices. Don’t let one penny of that money be yours.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is the president of Re-Bath in Shreveport. You can contact him at 318-216-4525 or by visiting www.rebath.com/location/shreveport.