May 16, 2003
Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
GENERAL WARNS CONSUMERS ABOUT
HOME REPAIR SCAMS
General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. says its that time of year again
when many consumers consider home improvement projectsand
when scam artists may make the rounds.
says springtime often brings out roving con artists who knock on
peoples doors and offer to do work such as roofing, gutter
cleaning, driveway paving or tree pruning. They sometimes appear
in the aftermath of hailstorms or tornados, offering to repair storm
damage. Some warning signs of a scam include:
an offer of a reduced price because theyve "just done
a job nearby and have materials left over"
an offer of a "special" percentage off the repair without
being clear about what the bottom-line price will be
no street address or telephone number, just a post office box or
an answering service
a refusal to give a written estimate or contract.
hire contractors who come to the door unsolicited, even if they
seem honest and helpful," Curran said. " Con artists may
take your money and disappear before finishing the job, or sometimes
before even starting the work. Also, admitting strangers to your
home puts you at risk of being robbed."
Curran offered these tips for consumers who need work done on their
Get recommendations for contractors from satisfied friends and neighbors.
Ask to see a contractors Maryland Home Improvement Commission
license, and get the license number and expiration date. Call the
Home Improvement Commission (410-333-6309) to verify the license
and to ask about complaints filed against a company. If a contractor
you hire fails to do the job, or does it poorly, you may be able
to recover your losses through the Home Improvement Commission's
Guaranty Fund if your contractor is licensed.
Also call the Consumer Protection Division (410-528-8662) to ask
about any complaints filed against the company.
Get references and check them to see if the work was done properly,
on schedule, and within the contract price.
Get estimates from at least two or three companies, especially for
Attorney General says consumers should insist on having a complete
written contract. It should include the contractors name,
address and telephone number, a description of work done, materials
used, labor cost, timetable, payment schedule, completion date,
names of subcontractors, warranty agreements, clean up and financing
should not pay more than one-third of the total contract price in
advance. In Maryland, it's against the law for a contractor to accept
more than one-third in advance.
consumers should know their right to cancel. Because most home improvement
contracts are signed in the home, you are protected by the Door-to-Door
Sales Act, which gives you three business days to cancel the contract
(the contract should advise you of this right).
can request a copy of the Attorney Generals publication "Consumers
Edge: Home Repair Scams" by calling (410) 576-6500 or read
it online at www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/edge111.htm.