Beware of Home Repairs Too Good To Be True
There are many reasons that Seniors are vulnerable to home repair scams. They are more likely to be home during the day when contractors come knocking on doors; old age infirmities may make it harder to do repairs, so it is likely that the house may need work; older adults may have more disposable cash, even stored in their homes; seniors tend to be more trusting than younger age groups and those who live alone may welcome a friendly face.
Most Common Home Repair Scams
Beware of contractors coming to your door and saying your home needs attention related to these topics (from “The 9 Biggest Home Repair Scams,” May 31, 2015, Money):
Termites. Treatment is only needed when there is evidence of termites inside the house or close to the foundation, so be wary of warnings about termites in wood piles or fences not connected to your house.
Driveways. Roaming contractors will offer to seal your driveway—usually for a ridiculously low price—using leftover sealant from a local job they just finished, or so they say. Instead, they’ll apply a cheap imitation that doesn’t work and usually washes away after the first big storm.
Roofs. Beware of roofers who tell you they’ll do the work for a discount, that you need a whole new roof or that you need to replace the wood base beneath the shingles, an expensive repair that is rarely needed.
Heating and air conditioning. Scammers will try to replace perfectly good parts with new ones, or replace bad parts with used ones that still work.
Basements. Deceitful contractors will recommend digging out your entire foundation and waterproofing it to fix a damp basement, something that can cost $20,000 or more. Often the problem can be easily fixed for far less by simply reducing moisture along your foundation.
Plumbing. Common ploys include recommending an expensive repiping job when a less-expensive rooter service is all that’s required, and using pipes that are the wrong size or made of inferior material.
Mold. Unless you have a health issue, mold is not a problem, so don’t necessarily believe vendors who offer expensive mold identification services.
Painting. Fly-by-night painters will cut corners by doing very little prep work or by using substandard paint.
What You Can Do
If a contractor approaches you, take precautions before agreeing to any repairs (or paying any money).
First, anyone who comes to your door to solicit work is not likely to be reputable. Competent roofers usually have enough work without going door-to-door. Also, in the case of a hailstorm that ruined your roof, for example, your insurance adjuster should be the first one to examine the damage. An illegitimate roofer can do more damage, sometimes deliberately, to convince the homeowner that work is necessary. You may also take these additional safeguards:
- Get multiple estimates on any home repair job before signing a contract.
- Check out the contractor’s references and visit the site to check out the quality of the work itself, if possible.
- Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau and make sure the contractor is registered with your state board of contractors and your local building inspection office.
- Never pay in full upfront, especially if cash is the only payment accepted.
- Make sure the contractor is insured and bonded.
- Document in writing the scope of the work to be done, the complete cost and time necessary to complete the job and how payment will be handled.
- Remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
In addition, you can ask friends, neighbors or people you trust for recommendations for a good contractor. Google the company to see if people have posted negative reviews.
Home Repair Scams Target the Elderly,” April 24, 2014, National White Collar Crime Center
“Personal Finance,” National Consumers League
“Pair targets elderly in home-repair scam,” April 10, 2015, KSDK