Across North America, homeowners are finding themselves victims of home renovation scams – a dangerous cocktail that combines homeowners investing in their home either to make it more saleable or more comfortable for the family, in an economic environment that encourages inexperienced contractor-wannabes or scam artists to apply for the job. The result can be lethal.
The newspapers have been full of what has been called, “remodeling vultures.” Take the case of one unsuspecting homeowner who hired a contractor to re-build his kitchen. The contractor frequently requested additional funds to continue the work, explaining that material prices had gone up, or employees had quit and their replacements could only be hired for more. At the end of two years, the homeowner woke up, cut off the funds and the rogue contractor walked off the job, leaving it unfinished.
This homeowner wasn’t alone. People want to believe that their $14,000 job can be done (well) for $5,000. And the contractor talked a good line. To be certain, homeowners should contact the city to verify the contractor’s licenses and permits, and check with the Better Business Bureau to ensure there are no complaints registered. Yelp.com is another source where consumers can review various businesses, including contractors. Also ask to see proof of insurance – you don’t want to be liable in case of an accident – and don’t pay upfront fees beyond a 10 percent deposit.
Laws vary across jurisdictions, so check locally on your legal rights if you feel you’re the victim of a rogue contractor.