With Storm Season Here, AG Fox Cautions Consumers to Choose Contractors Carefully
This summer, many parts of Montana may face severe thunderstorms, hail, and flooding. Attorney General Tim Fox and his Office of Consumer Protection 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.
“Don’t let shady contractors take advantage of you this summer,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “Be wary of individuals who use high-pressure sales tactics, offer very low bids, or claim they just finished a job nearby and have materials left over so they can do your job for a discount. If you have any questions about how to select a reputable contractor, be sure to call Montana’s Office of Consumer Protection at 1-800-481-6896.”
When hiring a contractor, make sure you follow these steps:
- Research similar projects. Learn the best way to complete it and how much it should cost.
- 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.
- 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.
- Check references.
- Call the Office of Consumer Protection at 406-444-4500 and ask if there are any complaints about the contractor you are considering.
- 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.
- Don’t pay 100% up front. While a down payment may be necessary, payments should be distributed over the course of the project.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.