Home repair scams exist! Here’s how to spot them

Spring is officially here. This is the season when homeowners are getting around to fixing and repairing those pesky home improvement projects they’ve been putting off due to the cold weather. But home inspector Rob Parker warns us – it’s also a time when homeowners have to be on the lookout for “professionals” offering a helping hand. Here’s what you need to know about home repair scams.  

Homeowners may see more people around the neighbourhood offering to fix or repair items. Though the majority of tradespeople are honest professionals, there are a large number of unscrupulous contractors who will fix items that don’t need fixing or overcharge for their services. Even worse,generalcontractors some may pose as a professional and scam homeowners into taking money without the intention of completing any work.

Legally, anyone performing electrical, plumbing or heating and air conditioning work is required to have a licence or be working as an apprentice for someone who holds a licence and who is responsible for their work. Often, these professionals will list their licence number on their vehicle or your contract.

Some common home repair scams include:

Roofing scams

Don’t trust a roofer who makes an assessment of a leaky roof from the ground without examining it. More often than not, the flashing will need replacing and that will solve the problem, but a roofer could convince you that you need a whole new roof.

Driveway scams

Every year, they drive the streets of your neighbourhood, knocking on doors offering to seal your driveway. The price is unbelievably low, and so is the quality of the job.  Generally, the sealant is paint or some other cheap black spray material that will quickly wash away with the next rain.

Chimney sweep scams

Beware of any chimney sweep who arrives at your door unannounced, offering to perform his services for a low price. He might say that he’s just worked on your neighbour’s chimney. The inspection will uncover “problems” that quickly balloon the price. A true chimney sweep will be generalcontractors1W.E.T.T. (Wood Energy Transfer Technology)-certified so ask to see certification.

HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) technician scams

The most common scams involve replacing parts that work fine or substituting used parts for new ones. If you are suspicious, ask to see the alleged broken parts before they’re replaced, and look at the packaging and documentation for the new parts before they’re installed.

Plumbing scams

Some plumbers use plastic or low-grade metal, for instance, or 1/2-inch pipe instead of 3/4-inch pipe. Parts cost plumbers only a tiny fraction of the total charge for their services, but some plumbers will still cut corners to boost their profit. Ask what they are installing and how long the parts will last.

Painting scams

When you hire a painter and have arranged for them to use a specific brand of high-quality paint, you should make sure the painter brings the new sealed cans when the job is started. This ensures the painter didn’t switch the good paint with less expensive and a lower quality produce. Also, make sure the painter has not cut corners by not properly preparing the work site.

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Doesn’t this make you want to complete your home repairs yourself? After all, who can you trust? Thankfully, Parker shares his advice on how to find the right contractor for your repairs:

Homeowners, consider the following when they hire a contractor:

  1. Always get at least three quotes for the work to be done;
  2. Ask for references from past clients;
  3. Check with the Better Business Bureau to determine whether any complaints have been filed against the business before you sign the contract. You may even wish to have your lawyer read over the contract before you sign.
  4. Try to negotiate a set price for the work.

The biggest sign a home repair is a scan is when a contractor shows up at your door unannounced or calls you on the phone. Con artists must move every so often to frustrate law enforcement, so they have no fixed address and rely on door-to-door or phone solicitation.

It’s also important to note if a contractor is asking for a large down payment on a project. It may be appropriate to pay a small percentage of the total estimate up front, but if the contractor asks for most (or all) of the money up front, they may be a con artist. Even if they do return to perform the work, they may botch the job or leave it unfinished, leaving you with little power to contest. And, of course, never pay in cash and hold the final payment back until all work is completed.

Of course, you should check our website for your home repair needs! We have a list of general contractors, plumbers, roofers and more home service professionals. Scroll through company profiles and read customer-written reviews. Let us help you find a trustworthy professional.

About the Author: Rob Parker is a home inspector and columnist for the Toronto Sun.

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