Avoid Summer Repair Scams by Choosing Contractors Carefully

Home repair and improvement scams flourish in warm weather or in the days following natural disasters.  With the recent storm in Eastern Montana, the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection reminds Montanans of tips to keep in mind when selecting a contractor to do paving, roofing, or remodeling projects on their property.

“Become a well-informed consumer,” Attorney General Tim Fox said.  “Be wary of drive-by contractors and storm chasers; learn more about the high pressure sales tactics they apply.  Taking a few minutes to learn some helpful tips from my Office of Consumer Protection can help you avoid being taken advantage of this summer,” Attorney General Fox added.

Tip-offs to fly-by-night paving or storm chasing repair swindles include individuals who:
• Refuse to provide a written estimate, contract or references;
• Offer very low bids;
• Use high-pressure sales tactics;
• Arrive in a vehicle that does not have a company name, address, or phone number on it;
• Claim they just finished a job nearby and have materials left over so they can do your job for a discount; and
• Have the ability to “start immediately” on your project.

When hiring a contractor, remember to:

•            Research similar projects.  Learn the best way to complete it and how much it should cost;
•            Research which licenses and permits are required for the project. Demand in writing who will be responsible for obtaining the licenses and permits;
•            Consider local, reputable contractors;
•            Get at least three written bids. If you don’t feel comfortable with a bid, don’t be afraid to say no.
•            Check references;
•            Contact the Montana Office of Consumer Protection to see if any formal complaints have been filed against your potential contractor;
•            Don’t believe what you read in a contractor’s ad.  Check for yourself to make sure a contractor has a license, insurance, and is bonded;
•            Ensure the contractor is registered to do business in the state by checking on-line at www.mtcontractor.com  or by calling the Montana Department of Labor at (406) 444-7734; and
•            Avoid payments of advance fees. Demand a written contract that includes:  Start and end date of project, payment schedule, a list of materials (quality grade, and cost), any guarantees or warranties, and details about the project.

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.