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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > April 2024 > Watch out for home-improvement scams

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Watch out for home-improvement scams

Warmer weather ushers in the season of home-improvement projects, from staining decks to installing new roofs. Although many contractors do excellent work, others, unfortunately, are less than reputable. That’s why it’s crucial to do due diligence before hiring a contractor.
Home-improvement scammers often exploit unsuspecting homeowners by demanding large down payments, only to take the money and run, leaving homeowners with no repairs and no refunds. Others perform substandard work, which then leaves homeowners with costly repairs.
To avoid home-improvement scams, thoroughly vet potential contractors by:
  • Getting recommendations. Successful contractors make it easy to access feedback on their work and related documentation.
  • Researching multiple contractors. Obtaining at least three written estimates from three contractors can help weed out bad apples. Beware of contractors with only a few projects for you to review.
  • Asking for licensing, certification and proof of insurance. Depending on the project, this may be vital to the safety of your renovation.
  • Going online. Check out the company’s reputation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. You can also search for any previous lawsuits filed by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section.
To further protect yourself:
  • Do not make a large down payment. Instead, pay in increments – say, a third of the cost at the beginning of the job, a third after half of the work is completed to your satisfaction, and the final third at job completion.
  • Avoid paying in cash. If something goes wrong, you’ll have a limited paper trail.
  • Get all promises in writing.
  • Be cautious of contractors who want a payment check made out to them personally, instead of a business.
  • Understand that Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act provides consumers with a three-day cancellation period for most contracts signed at their own home. The law also applies to contracts signed at any location that is not a company’s normal place of business (such as a home-improvement show).
  • Look for the red flags of a traveling scam artist. If a contractor claims to have leftover materials from a nearby job or offers unbelievably low prices, be suspicious. Have your guard up if you need storm-related damage repaired, as many fly-by-night contractors prey on homeowners in difficult situations who need work completed quickly.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.