Tips to avoid being scammed while hiring contractors to repair flood damage

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) – New York State property owners dealing with the aftermath of flooding along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are asked to take precaution to avoid being scammed during their repair efforts.

The New York State Attorney General’s office has released a list of tips for consumers to avoid being scammed.

Property owners are asked to be vigilant when selecting a contractor for repairs, and to insist that all contracts contain terms and conditions that are required by law to help protect consumers from unscrupulous contractors.

“Far too often, homeowners are pushed to hire contractors without signed documents stating what work will be done and how long it will take,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “That means consumers can end up with much larger bills than expected, projects that were never started or completed, or even liens against their homes. Homeowners need to know their rights, and contractors must obey the law. My office will continue fighting to protect New Yorkers’ hard-earned dollars and ensure that unscrupulous contractors are held accountable.”

New York State law requires that every home improvement contractor, before beginning work, must provide the consumer with a written contract, signed by both parties, which sets out certain specific information and disclosures. For example, the contract must:

  • Provide proposed start and completion dates;
  • Describe with particularity the work to be done;
  • Include materials to be provided; and
  • Give notice that the consumer has an unconditional three-day right to cancel the contract without penalty.

In addition, the law requires that any advance deposits taken by the contractor must be placed into an account at a banking institution separate from the contractor’s other funds. The contractor must notify the consumer of the banking institution at which the deposit is kept.

Consumers should take the following precautions when hiring home improvement contractors:

  • Be specific about what work you want done.
  • Educate yourself about the required permits – don’t rely solely on the contractor
  • Shop around.
  • Get references and check them.
  • Get proof of insurance from the contractor.
  • Check licenses (if required).
  • Never pay the full price upfront.
  • Always put work to be done in writing, including all add-ons.
  • Know where your payments are going.
  • Never do business with a contractor who is unwilling to abide by any of the conditions above.

If consumers feel they have been victimized, they are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline: 1-800-771-7755 or call one of the following regional offices:

  • Buffalo:         716-853-8404
  • Rochester:    585-327-3240
  • Syracuse:      315-448-4848
  • Watertown: 315-523-6311
  • Plattsburgh: 518-562-3282

 

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