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Home Repair Problems and Scams

This time of year is perfect for making all of those much needed home repairs – whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a professional to do the work.

Unfortunately, we hear frequently how unsavory characters pray on innocent homeowners or the elderly and leave them stuck with repairs and projects uncompleted and deceived out of their hard earned money.

Thankfully, Pennsylvania does have a specific law to protect homeowners.

The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act requires contractors who perform home improvements to register with the state if they are doing more than $5000 worth of work each year. It also establishes minimum insurance requirements for contractors; requires them to provide their registration number in their ads and contracts; sets out required contract terms; prohibits unfair business practices; and creates a criminal penalty for home improvement fraud.  Once a contractor is listed, you can then check their registration on the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website (www.attorneygeneral.gov), Here you can verify the contractor’s information, check the specifics on their insurance, see how long they have been registered, etc. ALWAYS a good place to start.

Below are some frequently asked questions and some helpful tips to navigate through those home repair headaches.

  1. I finally decided to do something about my leaking roof, but I don’t know who to hire. There has been a contractor coming door to door in the neighborhood and he’s offered to give me a good price. Is this a good idea?

Keep in mind that you should ALWAYS be wary of door to door sales, but in the case of home repair issues, even more so.

First and foremost, never let an unfamiliar person into your home. Many unsavory characters prey on senior citizens who are essentially homebound and are in need of help around the house.

You should be very careful that what you would be purchasing from this person is actually what you need. Many times consumers are taken in by a smooth talking salesman who convinces them that they need much more than they actually do.

Generally, you will be best served by dealing with local contractors who have an actual place of business and who have been recommended by friends, family or reputable building supply stores.

Also keep in mind that if you are unfortunate enough to have been tricked into signing a contract by a door to door salesperson you do have the right to cancel a door to door purchase within three days of the purchase if the item sold is for $25.00 or more. The seller has to give you written notice of that right and must tell you that you have the right to cancel. As long as you return whatever goods have been sold to you in the same condition, you are entitled to a refund of the money you have paid out. Keep in mind though that you must be able to find the person who sold you the items and took your money in order to get the refund. This is why it is so important to make sure you are dealing with someone reputable and who has an actual place of business. ALWAYS FEEL FREE TO SAY NO.

  1. I need siding on my home and have found a company to do it. They’re offering to finance the improvement, but I’m a little nervous about letting them do that. Is it safe?

You’re right to be suspicious and you must be very careful when a contractor or a repair company offers to finance a job. Some home improvement contracts involve the contractor or another lender getting a mortgage on the person’s property as security for the loan. In addition, particularly in the case of older homeowners who are dealing with a contractor, they may face a contract that is padded with additional charges above and beyond the price you negotiated, or an extremely high interest rate.

The federal Truth in Lending Act requires that you be given notice of the right to cancel any contract where a creditor could take an interest in your home. This means that if you’re using your home as collateral for the loan, you have to be told this explicitly and also given notice that you have the right to cancel this contract within 3 business days.

As with any other contract, make sure you read it carefully before you sign anything, and it never hurts to have a second pair of eyes review it.

  1. I’ve selected a contractor and he says he’s sending over the contract. What should I expect it to contain and how can I protect myself if the work isn’t done or if the relationship goes sour?

A contract for home improvements or repair should, like any other contract set out party’s expectations, rights, and responsibilities as clearly as possible.

It should specifically list:

Additional items to protect yourself:

DO'S AND DON'TS

DO:


DO NOT: