How to Avoid Contractor Scams

Well You Did It: You Bought That Victorian Fixer-Upper

The Interview

Here are some questions to ask.

How long have you been in business? Look for a well-established company and check it out with consumer protection officials. They can tell you if there are unresolved consumer complaints on file. One caveat: A zero complaints record against a particular contractor may be that problems exist, but have not yet been reported, or that the contractor is doing business under several different names or perhaps very little business is done. Why you need references.

Are you licensed and registered with the state?

Only 36 states have some type of licensing and registration statutes affecting contractors, remodelers, and/or specialty contractors. Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency to find out about licensing requirements. If your state has licensing laws, ask to see the contractor's license. Make sure it's current.

How many projects like mine have you completed in the last year?

Ask for a list. This will help you determine how familiar the contractor is with your type of project.

Will my project require a permit?

A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project. Be suspicious if the contractor asks you to get the permit(s). It could mean that the contractor is not licensed or registered, as required by your state or locality.

Get References?

The contractor should be able to give you the names, addresses, and phone numbers of at least three clients who have projects similar to yours.

Will you be using subcontractors on this project?

Make sure they have current insurance coverage and licenses and get a copy. A "mechanic's lien" could be placed on your home if your contractor fails to pay the subcontractors and suppliers on your project. That means the subcontractors and suppliers could go to court to force you to sell your home to satisfy their unpaid bills from your project. Protect yourself by asking the contractor, and every subcontractor and supplier, for a lien release or lien waiver.

What types of insurance do you carry?

Contractors should have personal liability, worker's compensation, and property damage coverage. Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they're current. Avoid doing business with contractors who don't carry the appropriate insurance. Otherwise, you'll be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project

Tips to Avoid Being Scammed

from the CSLB web site

  • Watch out for door-to-door solicitations—especially when they want to start work immediately
  • Be aware that your contractor must notify you of your right to cancel within three days of signing a contract
  • Be a good neighbor and report any suspicious home improvement activity if your neighbor is elderly or otherwise vulnerable and g et free information from the CSLB

“10 Tips for Making Sure Your Contractor Measures Up.”

If you or a neighbor have hired or been solicited by someone fitting the description of these traveling criminals, please contact the Contractors State License Board in Southern California at (562) 466-6017 or in Northern California at (916) 255-2924.

Thanks for Reading
Howard Bell

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