Guide: Tips to help homeowners avoid home improvement scams

Are you getting ready for some home improvement? Beware of scams!
Home improvement scams have consistently ranked as one of the top five consumer complaints from New Yorkers, according to the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP).
DCP receives hundreds of complaints each year regarding home contractors’ poor workmanship, overcharges, unfinished work and failure to show up or complete the job.
If you’re looking to spruce up your home, the below tips will help you avoid scams:

Shop around

Get at least three estimates that include detailed information about the materials and services to be provided for the job, as well as the project timeline.

Get references and check them

Ask friends and neighbors for contractors they recommend. Always contact references provided to you. Speak directly to former customers and ask to see examples of prior work.

Know the codes

Check with your town or county about permit requirements and the applicable building codes. Be sure you or your contractor obtain the necessary permits.

Check your local government licensing requirements

If your local government requires licensure for home improvement contractors or certain home improvement trades, be sure to only hire a licensed contractor.

Take advantage of professional associations

Local home builder associations may offer to recommend reputable contractors and provide support if there’s a dispute with the recommended contractor.

Get it in writing

Insist on a written contract that includes description of the work to be completed, timeline, price and payment schedule. Request that any changes to the contract be in writing.

Never pay the full price upfront

Establish a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job. Withhold final payment until the entire project is completed to your satisfaction.

Before final payment

Hold final payment until you complete a final walkthrough, approve of all the completed work and all required inspections and certificates of occupancy are delivered.

Know your rights

You have three days to cancel after signing a contract for home improvements. All cancellations must be in writing.

Running into problems?

First, speak with your contractor and try to reach a resolution. If a resolution is not possible, file a complaint with your local consumer protection agency.