Spring is generally a busy time in the home renovation and repair business. As the weather warms, homeowners’ thoughts turn to dealing with repair projects that have been put off and improving their living space, both inside and out. Spring is also the time when fly-by-night and unlicensed contractors ply their trade on unsuspecting homeowners who are anxious to get the job done. Consumer Protection Ontario lists the following as some of the more common scams they receive complaints about:
Door-to-door sales scams: You receive a knock on the door from a contractor who just happens to be “working in your neighbourhood” and has all the equipment and materials ready to go. The catch? You are usually asked to pay cash on the spot or sign a contract immediately to get the deal. A variation is the salesperson who offers to inspect your roof, chimney or furnace for free. You agree and they inform you of serious problems that require immediate repairs and urge you to sign the contract they just happen to have ready for your signature.
The disappearing contractor: Do not agree to giving contractors a large down payment to “purchase materials”. Chances are they will cash the deposit and never finish – or even start – the job you’ve hired them to do.
The paper-free deal: Reputable contractors will also provide all the necessary paperwork for your project – estimates, contracts, professional licences, and building permits if required. If they don’t, or they offer a cash deal with no contract, this should be a red flag. A contract is the consumer’s best protection, according to CPO.
To prevent being a victim of a home renovation scam, the CPO offers these tips:
- Get renovation estimates from at least three contractors
- Ask for recommendations from previous clients and check the references
- Never accept an estimate over the phone or without the contractor inspecting the area
- Once you have a contractor in mind, check for complaints or charges on the CPO’s Consumer Beware List
- Keep down payments to a minimum and never pay in full until the job is completed
- Always work with a contract and make sure it includes a complete description of the work to be done and the materials – if it is not in the contract you might end up paying extra on the final bill. The contract should also include a clear outline of prices and payment schedules, work schedules, warranties and guarantees, and who is responsible for cleanup when the job is done.
For more advice on hiring a contractor, visit the CPO website at https://www.ontario.ca/page/your-rights-when-starting-home-renovations-or-repairs.
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