The recent rash of bad weather brought more than wind damage to town. With the amount of roof and other damages to homes, local contractors are concerned that disreputable contractors may scam homeowners.
According to the Better Business Bureau, home improvement scams are probably the single biggest source of complaints they receive. The number grew last month with the amount of wind damage that occurred in Putnam County.
Local contractor Brett Hurley suggests that homeowners be careful especially if someone just shows up at their door offering to make repairs.
Commonly referred to as a door-to-door sale, it's a favorite among bogus home improvement operators and victims of weather-related disasters are common targets.
Hurley noted that a number of out-of-town contractors have been in the area offering to make repairs to damaged homes.
"You don't just buy the first car you see," says Hurley. "You shop around first. Homeowners need to do the same thing when hiring a contractor."
Many of the "gypsy" contractors work out of their pickup trucks.
"If they are driving a crummy looking truck with a bumper falling off they probably do sloppy work," adds Hurley.
The Office of the Attorney General has issued a warning about buying from door-to-door contractors. They advise a person to be skeptical of anyone who just shows up offering to make repairs. They may trick homeowners into signing a contract without disclosing all the charges.
"These people often claim to have just finished working on a neighbor's house and have extra materials left over which they try to sell to you at a bargain price," Hurley said.
"A good contractor won't have left over materials. If you have left over materials from another job then you have probably cheated the first customer," he adds.
Other advice given by Hurley and the Attorney General's office include:taking time to make your decision. Ask for references and talk to people who have used their services.
Opt for the local, well-established contractor. Don't assume that an ad makes the contractor reliable.
Compare bids and services. Be skeptical if the bid is too low. Cheaper is not necessarily better.
"A contractor with a low price may be inexperienced and unable to finish the work for the amount bid," Hurley said.
Get bids in writing and make sure they are detailed.
Get a written contract. Indiana law requires home improvement contracts exceeding $150 to be in writing.
Never pay for the entire project before the work begins. Do not pay more than one-third of the total cost as a down payment. Remaining payments should be tied to completion of specified amounts of work.
Check to make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured.
"My father had a bad experience with someone he hired who was not insured. The man cut off his finger with a power saw. It cost my dad's homeowners insurance over $100,000," Hurley said. "And, it was all because the contractor wasn't insured."
David Wood with John Wood Builders told the BannerGraphic he has not had any reports of out of area contractors, but his company does have a lot of repair work lined up as soon as the weather breaks.
Even if precautions are taken, problems may arise, according to the AG's office. Take time talk to your contractor to resolve these issues. If problems continue, put your complaints in writing and send them to the contractor.
Anyone who thinks they may have been approached by a disreputable contractor can contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at www.IndianaConsumer.com