(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — In the wake of Monday's flooding, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning Ohioans to beware of unscrupulous home improvement contractors attempting to take advantage of flood victims.
"The flooding, which already has devastated many parts of the state, also is creating a breeding ground for fraud," DeWine said. "Fly-by-night contractors specifically target vulnerable consumers in times of need. They offer a quick fix, take a consumer's money, and then do little or no actual work."
DeWine offered consumers the following tips to protect themselves, their homes and their money:
- Watch for red flags. Be wary of home improvement contractors who come to your door unexpectedly. Also be wary of contractors who fail to provide proper identification, demand advance payment, do not have a permanent place of business or pressure you for an immediate decision.
- Shop around. Ohio law requires plumbers and electricians to be licensed, but most other home improvement contractors can operate without licenses (although certain cities do require licenses). Ask family members and friends for recommendations and search complaints filed against a contractor with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General's Office.
- Don't pay in advance. Typically, a down payment should be no more than one-third of the total price. Instead of cash, which provides no paper trail, consider paying with a credit card, which allows you to dispute charges if something goes wrong. Withhold the final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction. Get receipts for all payments. Make sure all subcontractors have been paid.
- Understand your right to cancel. If you sign a contract in your home or at a location that is not a company's normal place of business, you have three business days to cancel the contract under Ohio's Home Solicitation Sales Act. All cancellations must be in writing and sent to the seller's address.
- Get everything in writing. A contractor might make verbal promises about repairs or costs, but unless these promises are put into a written contract, they are not guaranteed. Carefully review any document before you sign it. A home repair contract should include the following information: the contractor's name and address; a detailed description of the work to be done; the beginning and ending dates for the work; an estimated price of the work; a payment schedule; a warranty statement for labor and materials; and the contractor's signature.
For more information or to report consumer fraud, contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.
Eve Mueller: 614-466-3840
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840