Attorney General Fox Cautions Consumers to Choose Contractors Carefully during Storm Season, Pandemic
This spring, many parts of Montana may face severe thunderstorms, hail, and flooding. Attorney General Tim Fox and his Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) remind consumers to exercise caution while hiring contractors to repair damage to their homes. “Fly by night” contractors, or “storm chasers,” swarm Montana communities after storms and natural disasters, eager to claim insurance checks and hard-earned money.
“I’m concerned many homeowners are already struggling financially during this pandemic, and a hailstorm could come through and add insult to injury,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “Montana homeowners should be particularly mindful when seeking out repair work and do so with a keen awareness that shady contractors may be out to take advantage of them. Contact my Office of Consumer Protection for more information about how to hire a reputable contractor,” Fox added.
When hiring a contractor, make sure you follow these steps:
1. Research similar projects. Learn the best way to complete it and how much it should cost.
2. Consider local, reputable contractors. Check their registration by calling the Department of Labor and Industry at 406-444-7734 or checking online at www.mtcontractor.com.
3. Get at least three written bids. A bid is not a contract; you’re not obligated to do business with someone just because you have their bid.
4. Check references.
5. Call the Office of Consumer Protection at 406-444-4500 and ask if there are any complaints about the contractor you are considering.
6. Require proof that the contractor is insured and bonded. Otherwise, you may be liable for injuries to workers or others on your property. Ask to see the actual bond document and call the bonding company to confirm what it covers.
7. Don’t pay 100% up front. While a down payment may be necessary, payments should be distributed over the course of the project.
8. Insist upon a written contract that includes: Start and end date of the project, payment schedule, a list of materials (quality, grade and cost), any guarantees or warranties, and who will be responsible for necessary licenses and permits.
9. Get the start and end date in writing and signed by both parties. If no project dates are put in writing, your project could be put off indefinitely.
10. Ask if subcontractors will be used in any part of your project. If so, require proof they are registered, insured and bonded.
To report an attempted scam, call your local law enforcement agency or the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, or visit http://dojmt.gov/consumer. For more consumer tips, follow OCP on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/MontanaConsumerProtection/.