Home repair fraud lawsuits are often hard to file because the contractor has skipped town. So what do you do to minimize your chances of falling victim to a home repair scam in the first place?
- Beware of any contractor that comes to your home unannounced and promises home repair work in a very short time and at a low cost. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
- Before signing any home repair contract, do an online search for any complaints against the contractor. It’s also a good idea to check the Circuit Court of Cook County website to make sure other homeowners haven’t sued that contractor or the company.
- Be cautious about paying cash. If the contractor skips town and the work isn’t done, your money is likely gone for good. However, if you pay by credit card, you may be able to dispute the charge with your credit card company. Check your credit card’s terms and conditions to see how long you have to dispute a charge and follow the instructions for disputing that charge in writing.
- Do not pay on any home repair or remodeling contract over $1,000 unless the contractor gives you a copy of the “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights” pamphlet. This pamphlet will explain what every home repair contract must include, namely: (1) the contractor’s full name, address, and telephone number; (2) a description of the work to be performed; (3) starting and estimated completion dates; (4) the total cost of work to be performed; (5) the schedule and method of payment, including down payment, subsequent payments, and final payment; and (6) a provision stating the grounds for termination of the contract by either party.
What are other telltale signs of possible home repair fraud? A contractor who changes payment terms during the project, demanding “progress” payments that were not originally agreed to. This can mean the contractor is short on cash and is using your money to pay for materials needed on another project. Also, if you pay for materials, make sure the contractor gives you a release of lien showing the subcontractor or store was paid. Don’t be stuck paying the contractor for materials that he doesn’t pay for.
Home repair and remodeling projects can be so rewarding if done by the right team of contractors. Make sure to do your homework and don’t be pressured into a job if you have any doubts.