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Spring cleaning sometimes leads to spring home repairs. Updating or fixing your home can be stressful. There are many decisions to make — and, of course, you want to make sure that any work done on your home is done well and lasts.
Don’t let a scam add to your stress. Scammers will often target homeowners to trick you out of your hard-earned money. They don’t do good work, if they do any at all, and they charge exorbitant amounts of money. When you’re looking to get home repair services done, here are some things to consider.
Always do your own research first. Look up services online to see if they are reputable. Don’t be fooled by a fancy website or enticing deals. You can check a contractor’s or other professional’s credentials and licenses. There are a number of websites that allow you to read up on customer reviews, such as Angie’s List or Yelp. You also can contact the Better Business Bureau and my office’s Consumer Protection Division to learn whether we’ve received complaints against the person or company you’re considering. And remember that word of mouth can be very useful — ask your neighbors and friends about their home repair experiences and recommendations.
Be very wary of repair servicepeople who show up and claim there’s a major problem with your home’s construction and offer to do the work immediately or for a great price. Often, these scammers will do poor quality work and charge too much money, or continue finding “problems” that need attention to scam you out of thousands of dollars. If someone points out that something in your home needs to be fixed, get a second opinion.
After you’ve identified a few companies you’d like to consider, ask for written estimates. Compare prices for the work being performed, materials used, the amount of time they’ll take to complete the work and any warranties that may apply. Ask if they will guarantee their work for a certain amount of time after they complete the project. If they will, get that guarantee in writing before you sign a contract.
Make sure you have a contract in writing that lays out all the important terms, including payment. While you might have to pay an initial down payment for materials, make sure you hold back payments to ensure the work gets done to your satisfaction. Pay with a credit card if possible so you can dispute it, if necessary.
Home repair scams aren’t the only types of scams that deal with people’s homes. Our office has also dealt with complaints related to renting, disaster repair, furniture, moving and other home-related issues.
We all want our homes to be in the best condition for as long as possible. Watch out for scams that make it hard to keep them that way. If you have a complaint related to a home repair or a home product, please report it to the N.C. Department of Justice by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov/consumer.
Josh Stein is the attorney general of North Carolina and head of the N.C. Department of Justice.