Home Repair Fraud
If your home has been damaged by a natural disaster, chances are you are in the market for a reputable contractor. The demand for qualified contractors is at an all time high and will surely exceed the supply. Be aware that these conditions are ripe for home repair con artists who may overcharge, perform shoddy work or simply skip town with your money.
The Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General offers these guidelines and the Model Contract as suggestions to help consumers avoid possible misunderstandings about home improvements. If you follow these guidelines and insist upon a written contract, some of the most common problems with home repair contractors might be avoided. If your contractor does not offer you a written contract, you should ask him to complete and sign the model contract form on the reverse side of these guidelines. If in doubt, or if you are agreeing to spend a lot of money, you should have a local attorney go over your contract before you sign.
Since our honest builders are so busy, many people are hesitant to demand all of the suggested information for fear of losing the builder. If you have this same concern, just hand the builder this brochure and tell him/her, The Attorney General said this information is essential.
Home Repair Checklist
Get at least three estimates (bids). Be certain each contractor bids on exactly the same work. ALL bids should be itemized and detailed.
Know with whom you are dealing and verify the contractor’s address. Request and check references (previous customers, bank references). Inspect work done for others when possible. Make sure the contractor is licensed through the Mississippi Board of Contractors (1-800-880-6161) If he/she is not licensed, do not do business with him/her.
Get the name of the contractor’s insurer and bonding company. Call the bonding company and verify that the contractor is insured and for what amount.
A reputable contractor can usually charge building materials and does not normally require a large down payment. Where one is required, it should not exceed 10%-25% of the total price. Better yet, accompany the contractor to the building supply store and pay the store for materials yourself. Have the materials delivered to your job site rather than the contractor’s shop.
Be specific. Have samples, model numbers, pictures or anything else that will show the contractor exactly what you want. If you don’t specify the quality of materials in the contract, you are leaving it up to the contractor to decide what material will be used.
Be certain the materials you have selected are what you want. Changing your mind in the middle of a construction project is costly. If you do change your mind, be prepared to pay more.
Get a guarantee in writing. Any contractor not willing to guarantee his/her work is not someone with whom you should be doing business. Accept no verbal agreements. Any changes in the contract should be in writing and initialed by both parties.
Specify in the contract a beginning and completion date, exact description of work to be done, total cost of job, exact schedule for payment and warranty or guarantee that can be expected. (If contract is for an hourly rate or on a cost plus basis, get an estimate of the total cost.)
Always pay by check or money order and keep a receipt. Write all checks to the company, not the individual worker. Make sure all subcontractors are paid to prevent a lien from being placed against your property.
Keep a signed, legible copy of the contract in a safe place.
DO NOT sign a certificate of completion or make final payment until you are satisfied with all work performed. Save copies of all material receipts so you can be sure you received goods and services for which you paid.
NOTE: Often on large projects payment is based on portions of completed work, i.e. 25% of total payment is due when 25% of the work has been satisfactorily completed.