This week Governor Cuomo’s office issued a consumer alert warning to homeowners to protect themselves against home repair scams, which may arise in the wake of the recent flooding that occurred on Long Island. Unfortunately, unscrupulous home repair scam artists often come out of the woodwork in the aftermath of major storms and try to take advantage of their neighbors. There are a number of steps that homeowners can take to avoid these schemes and help ensure that you are engaging with reputable businesses.
Homeowners should beware of anyone who:
* Comes to your home or calls you on the phone offering to make repairs. Tells you that you must make repairs immediately or offers discounts if you buy their services today.
* Pressures you to sign a contract immediately.
* Tells you that they are doing work in your neighborhood and that they have extra materials left from another job.
* Is not an established local business, but has come to the area from somewhere else to “help.”
* Avoid unlicensed contractors in areas where a license is required, such as Nassau and Suffolk Counties. In addition, avoid contractors who:
Don’t supply references or whose references can’t be reached.
Tell you there’s no need for a written contract. By law, all contracts for $500 or more must be in writing, but it’s a good idea to get a written contract even for smaller projects.
Only have a P.O. Box address or a cell phone number.
Cannot supply proof of insurance.
Ask you to get required building permits. It could mean that the contractor is unlicensed or has a bad track record, and is therefore reluctant to deal with the local building inspector. However, you should verify with your local building department that all necessary permits have been obtained by the contractor.
Ask for money to buy materials before starting a job. Reliable, established contractors can buy materials on credit.
Demand payment in cash or want full payment up front, before work has begun. Instead, find a contractor who will agree to a payment schedule providing for an initial down payment and subsequent incremental payments until the work is completed.
If you believe you have been victimized by scams, consult a lawyer immediately. There are time deadlines to cancel sales and pursue legal claims. Homeowners can also contact New York State Department of Financial Services for insurance-related scams, or the offices of your county’s District Attorney or the state Attorney General.