BBB Warning on Home Improvement Scams

Chicago, IL–(ENEWSPF)– With the spring season finally here, the Better Business Bureau of Chicago is warning homeowners to be on the lookout for home-improvement scams.

This is the time of year when less-than-reputable or unqualified contractors offer promising services at extremely low prices. They usually show up at your door or deliver fliers to your home.

Contractor complaints to the BBB concern many problems, including high-pressure sales tactics, confusion over contract terms, poor workmanship, incomplete job performance, and overcharging the agreed upon price. These complaints against home-improvement and home repair contractors are among the most common consumer complaints received by the Better Business Bureau.

"The salesperson or contractor may claim he has materials left over from a recent job at nearby location. This is a common ploy of shady contractors who are just out to make a quick buck and leave town," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.

There are thousands of reputable contractors who will deliver quality work on time and within budget. Consumers can avoid costly mistakes and scams by doing some research before opening their wallets.

The BBB offers the following consumer tips:

  • Deal only with licensed and insured contractors. Investigate the track record of any builder or contractor you may hire. Get a list of recent satisfied customers in your area and for similar types of work from all prospective contractors.
  • Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers for recommendations, then check with your Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org to see if complaints have been lodged against any contractor you’re considering hiring.
  • "Bait and switch" – offering low prices for installed items like windows and home siding, and then telling the senior the item is currently out of stock and can only be replaced with a high-priced substitute.
  • Misrepresenting the urgency of a needed repair to avoid the consumer getting other bids.
  • Claiming the item is more expensive than advertised because it has to be "custom made" to fit the home.
  • Don’t let anyone rush you into signing a contract. Get written estimates from at least three firms. Ask contractors if there’s any charge for an estimate before allowing them in your home. Ask for explanations of price variations. Don’t automatically choose the lowest bidder and get a copy of the final, signed contract.
  • Beware of contractors who ask you to pay for the entire job up-front. Never give a deposit until you’ve researched the contractor you’re considering. When you make a down payment, it should not be more than one-third of the total price. Pay only by check or credit card — and pay the final amount only after the work is completed to your satisfaction. Don’t ever pay cash.
  • Always be certain you have the contractor’s complete name, business name and his or her street address. Don’t settle for a post office box.
  • Do not permit work to start without a signed written contract that includes all verbal promises that were made by the contractor. Be sure that the written contract includes a start and completion date, a breakdown of the cost and information about the contractor, including proof of insurance, necessary permits from your city, competency license number, street address, city and phone number.

It is also important to look into the contractor’s standard of work and his professional affiliations; verify his insurance; check to see if he needs to be licensed; confirm his registration with the Illinois Division of Consumer Affairs. Check with the BBB for a report on the contractor.
To check out a company contact the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org or call 312.832.0500.

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About the BBB

As private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.