Whether it is roof repairs, painting, yard work, chimney repair, paving or other home repair projects, spring is here and many homeowners are tackling these projects now that the weather has started to warm up. But, before you agree to have any work done on your property, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is warning consumers to use caution when approached by contractors offering low-cost services or free inspections. All too often, door-to-door contractors or handymen claim they have extra materials, take upfront fees, do little work, or never finish the job. In many instances, they will ask for more money than the verbal quote they provided.
Attorney General Kilmartin issued a warning to homeowners who are vulnerable to these types of scams, "As the weather gets warmer, it is prime time for people to make improvements to their property. And, unfortunately, where there is a demand for services, there will also be scam artists looking to make a quick buck. It is very important for homeowners to do their research before agreeing to have any work done."
Attorney General Kilmartin offers homeowners these tips to consider before handing over your hard-earned cash for home repairs: • Avoid any contractors who stop by your house and claim that they have extra materials and offer a big discount. Professional contractors know, with accuracy, how much material is needed to complete a project. • Make sure the contractor is licensed with the proper state agency. All contractors must be licensed by the state Contractor's Registration Board. Visit the website at www.crb.ri.gov. • Ask for references and be sure to check them before hiring anyone. • Make sure you get all quotes, estimates and work details in writing before you agree to any work. And if possible, get several quotes from different contractors so that you can compare the services and fees. • Don't be pressured to make an immediate decision. Legitimate contractors will provide written estimates that will be valid for several days or weeks. • Make sure the written contract outlines all of the work that the contractor has agreed to perform, the dates the work will begin and is expected to be completed, the type and quality of materials to be used and the total cost of the work (including labor). • Ask for proof of insurance and make sure that the contractor carries general liability and workers' compensation. If the contractor is not insured, you may be liable for accidents occurring on your property. • Be wary of contractors that only accept cash. Reputable contractors will accept checks or credit cards. • Avoid contractors that require you to pay for everything up front before they begin any work. • Don't allow anyone in your home unless you are sure who they are. Scam artists may use a "home visit" as an opportunity to commit crimes such as burglaries. • Report any suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency.
If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, please contact the Consumer Protection Unit at the Department of Rhode Island Attorney General at (401) 274-4400. You can download a consumer complaint by visiting our website at www.riag.ri.gov. You can also email us at email@example.com.
About the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit investigates and mediates consumer complaints concerning unfair and unlawful business practices and misleading advertising arising out of alleged violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If groups of people are victimized by a deceptive trade practice, this office may file in the Superior Court a civil investigative demand, which is a formal investigation. In appropriate cases, a lawsuit to stop the illegal business practice may be initiated.
Apart from carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the Unit also provides information and referral services to the general public. Consumers are directed to the appropriate governmental or private agencies for help in answering specialized questions or resolving disputes that are not within the Unit's jurisdiction.
The Consumer Protection Unit is available to speak to community groups on how to prevent being a victim of identity theft and other scams.