immediate release -- March, 2001.
Contact Bob Brammer, 515-281-6699
Home Repair Scams and Disputes
is prime time for home repairs. That makes it prime time for outright
scams or frustrating disputes. You can take action to avoid both problems.
Home repair scams
by "itinerant" or traveling con-artists work like this: Con-artists
stop at your door, give you a hard sell, and offer sensational low prices.
It might be for roofing or painting, or asphalting your driveway. The
con-artists insist that you pay in advance -- but they don't do the work,
or they do minimal work and never return. Remember, legitimate contractors
very rarely solicit door-to-door. Be skeptical! The main rules are to
check out a contractor, and never to pay large sums in advance to a contractor
you don't know. You can ask anyone to leave your property. Help older
neighbors who might be pressured or intimidated into making payments by
Disputes with established
local contractors may not be fraud, but they can be very frustrating and
costly. Follow these tips to protect yourself when you hire a contractor:
- Check out the contractor
before you sign a contract or pay any money. Ask if the contractor is
registered with the Iowa Dept. of Labor (800-562-4692, ext.25871). Check
local references. Ask the Consumer Protection Division if it has complaints.
- Get it in writing!
Before any work begins, agree on a written contract detailing work to
be done, responsibility for permits, costs, and any other promises.
Request a copy of the contractor's liability insurance certificate.
Put start and completion dates in writing and consequences if the contractor
fails to follow them (example: the contract could be nullified if the
contractor doesn't start on time.
- Try to avoid paying
large sums in advance to a contractor you don't know! If you have to
make a partial advance payment for materials, make your check out to
the supplier and the contractor. Insist on a "mechanic's lien waiver"
in case the contractor fails to pay others for materials or labor. Be
extremely cautious of financing offers from a contractor, including
second mortgages. Check first with your own lender or attorney.
- Remember, in most
cases, you have three business days to cancel a contract signed at your
home. (If the contract is canceled after three business days, contracts
often contain a "liquidated damages" clause, meaning you may
be liable for a percentage of the contract amount.)
For more information
or to file a complaint, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection
Division, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Call 515-281-5926. The Attorney General's
web site is: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.