Don’t become victim to home repair scams; hire the right contractor
Special to the Appeal
This story is adapted from the 2019-20 Fall-Winter edition of Peak NV, a specialty magazine produced by the Nevada News Group that published Sept. 14 in The Record-Courier and Nevada Appeal print editions. Visit bit.ly/2lS5e5A" target="_blank">Bold">bit.ly/2lS5e5A to view a digital edition of the magazine.
Being a homeowner requires ongoing efforts to repair, replace and upgrade the infrastructure of our homes that keep us comfortable every day.
Failure to do so could result in unwelcomed and costly situations that might have been prevented with regular check-ups by a licensed Nevada contractor.
When considering what needs to be maintained, think of the most critical services in your home and find a licensed Nevada contractor to begin performing regular maintenance as recommended by the industry. Some services may only need to be checked annually, while others may require more frequent inspections.
Whether you’re having your air conditioning and heating system serviced, replacing a water heater that went out, or making repairs to your roof, it is important for homeowners — especially older adults — to understand the dangers of unlicensed contracting activities and how best to protect themselves when looking to hire a contractor in Nevada.
Home repair scams are an unfortunate, yet successful tactic for many unlicensed contractors. They most commonly start with an unsolicited knock at the door from an individual looking to provide you with a free estimate for home repairs.
Some may seek to gain your trust by stating they have performed similar work for your neighbors, while others find ways to make you think you have a problem when you really don’t.
The majority of the time, you’ll listen to their sales pitch and politely decline their offer. A true professional would accept this graciously and move on to the next house. Unlawful contractors, however, are likely to react with a more aggressive tone and increase their pressure for you to make a decision on the spot — the, “won’t take ‘no’ for an answer” reaction.
Scenarios like this can escalate quickly, especially for seniors who may feel more vulnerable under tense circumstances. The most important advice is to always trust your first instinct.
If you do not get a good feeling from someone — walk away, close the door, and most importantly, never let that person into your home (whether licensed or not). However, not all situations leave you with this definitive feeling.
Additional warning signs to be cautious of may include:
No contractor’s license number on the company vehicle, business cards, bid or contracts. Remember that a contractor’s license number is different than a business license. Without a contractor’s license, you lose the ability to receive the Contractor’s Board protections in the event something goes wrong with your project.
The contractor will not provide you a written contract to document the work to be performed. A written contract ensures you and the contractor agree to the exact work to be performed. The more detail you can include, the better protected your interests are.
Demands for cash payments or large down payments before any work has been performed. Although the Board does not regulate price within the industry, it is recommended homeowners pay not more than 10 percent or $1,000 as a down payment, whichever is less.
Requests to have checks made payable to an individual and not a company — the Contractors Board only licenses construction companies, therefore checks should always be paid directly to the company.
For the best protection, never allow yourself to be pressured into having work performed on your home. Take time to assess your home’s maintenance needs. When you are ready, obtain references and bids from several contractors.
Most importantly, check with the Contractors Board to ensure the contractors are properly licensed and that the credentials you were provided align with the information on the Board’s website at nscb.nv.gov. You can also verify licensure by calling the Board’s office at 775-688-1141.
Hiring licensed contractors allows you the full protections of the Board. If you are not satisfied with the work that was performed, feel your contractor did not adhere to the contract expectations, or have any other concerns you are unable to resolve with your contractor, you can file a complaint with our office up to four years from the date the work was performed. This allows the Board to investigate your concerns.
If your concerns are validated, we work with you and your contractor to provide options for recourse that will make you whole again. Even in circumstances where a contractor is unresponsive, owners of a single-family residence may be eligible to receive financial recourse up to $35,000 from the Board’s Residential Recovery Fund.
Nevada is one of 11 states that offers a Recovery Fund and is proud to have awarded over $12 million over the last 20 years to harmed homeowners. This alone, is one of the greatest free protections the Contractors Board makes available to Nevada homeowners, and is a paramount reason for always hiring licensed Nevada contractors.
Margi Grein is Executive Officer of the Nevada State Contractors Board. Visit nvcontractorsboard.com to learn more.