Know the signs: How to protect yourself from spring cleaning and repair scams
This story is adapted from the 2018 Spring-Summer edition of Peak NV, a specialty magazine produced by the Sierra Nevada Media Group that published in April in the Nevada Appeal, Record-Courier and Lahontan Valley News print editions. Visit bit.ly/2JSc2HN" target="_blank">Bold">bit.ly/2JSc2HN to view an e-edition of the magazine.
As we anticipate warmer weather and start taking on spring and summer tasks, many of us will discover the need for repairs around the house or get the itch to start that new project we put off last year.
Unfortunately, spring is also high season for scams and unscrupulous, unlicensed contractors.
Everyone — especially older adults — should be on the lookout for unsolicited offers from door-to-door sellers or others advertising inexpensive services on online sites, such as Craigslist.
Every homeowner should be aware of these five warning signs:
1. No credentials: If the person you’re speaking to can’t provide you with a contractor’s license number, physical business address, etc., be concerned. It is important to verify licenses on the Nevada State Contractors Board’s website (www.nscb.nv.gov) before you hire anyone to work on your property.
2. Door-to-door solicitations: Here’s where you’ll run into offers for a “free” property assessments; “today only” specials; and service prices that defy the competition. Never let someone into your home you don’t know, or you risk making yourself vulnerable to greater issues of theft.
3. No written contract: An unwillingness to put the terms of an agreement in writing is a huge warning sign. A clear and detailed written contract provides you protection, giving you standing to hold a contractor accountable for the work they intend to perform.
4. High-pressure sales tactics: Trust that unsettled feeling you get when someone is pressuring you to make a decision or won’t take no for an answer. Walk away — legitimate contractors want your business, but also understand your right to make an informed decision, and will allow you time to do so.
5. Never pay in cash: Use check or credit only to ensure there is a clear record and receipt. NEVER let payments get ahead of the work performed — it’s recommended down payments not exceed 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less. Lastly, your checks should be written to the business you contracted with – NOT the individual(s) working at your home.
MORE TIPS TO FOLLOW
Now that you’re equipped to spot individuals you don’t want to hire, here are other things to consider with the licensed professionals you do hire:
Landscaping: When it comes to basic landscaping services, such as mowing the grass, trimming plants, etc., a license is generally not required. However, if you’re looking to have irrigation work done, plants installed, water features added, etc., it’s best to check with the Board first to verify what type of license is needed to perform the work.
Swimming Pools & Spas: Residential pool and spa contractors have additional requirements to further protect you as the consumer. These include limited down payments to $1,000 or 10 percent of the contract price, written contracts that include payment and construction schedules, pool plans, scale drawings, and more. If you run into any issues, please call our Pool Hotline at 702-486-1177.
Air Conditioning: Regularly scheduled preventative maintenance appointments will help reduce the risk of needing repairs or full unit replacements during the heat of summer. When repairs are needed, don’t hesitate to get other opinions before signing a contract, especially if a new or larger unit is recommended. Obtaining multiple bids provides you greater reassurance and consensus about the scope of work needed, and helps you gauge if you’re paying a reasonable price for the service.
The Contractors Board is a free public resource, and we welcome the opportunity to serve you, whether hiring a contractor, filing a complaint or answering construction-related questions. Please call us any time at 775-688-1141.
Margi Grein is Executive Officer of the Nevada State Contractors Board. Visit http://www.nvcontractorsboard.com to learn more.