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For Immediate Release
May 16, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

ATTORNEY GENERAL WARNS CONSUMERS ABOUT
HOME REPAIR SCAMS

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. says it’s that time of year again when many consumers consider home improvement projects–and when scam artists may make the rounds.

Curran says springtime often brings out roving con artists who knock on people’s 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 they’ve "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.

"Don’t 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."

Instead, Curran offered these tips for consumers who need work done on their homes:

• Get recommendations for contractors from satisfied friends and neighbors.

• Ask to see a contractor’s 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 expensive repairs.

The Attorney General says consumers should insist on having a complete written contract. It should include the contractor’s 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 arrangements.

Consumers 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.

Finally, 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).

Consumers can request a copy of the Attorney General’s publication "Consumer’s Edge: Home Repair Scams" by calling (410) 576-6500 or read it online at www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/edge111.htm.

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