HOME REPAIR FRAUD
There are many types of home repair frauds committed by people who are anything but honest and
hardworking. The best way to protect yourself from becoming a victim of these people is thorough
knowledge and common sense. Most home repair scams occur during the spring and fall. The
most popular types of home repair frauds are roof repair, asphalt paving/driveway sealing, house
painting, termite and pest control and tree pruning and landscaping. Here is a brief look at these
types of frauds.
As a homeowner, you may be approached by a con artist who says that he has been working in the neighborhood and noticed that your roof is in need of repair. This person will tell you that he
has materials left over from another job and can repair your roof for a small amount of money. He
may go as far as to say that he will spray your existing shingles with a protective coating that will
make your home more energy efficient. Do not buy into this sales pitch. The protective coating is
a gasoline and paint mixture that will be rinsed away during the first rain after the mixture is applied.
The con artist will have shingles, a sprayer,tools and other items that give the appearance of
a legitimate business. These men will go onto your roof, replace a few shingles and spray your
roof. You will be given a bill substantially higher than the original bid and be told that the original
bid was cost per shingle or per gallon of roof coating.
ASPHALT PAVING AND DRIVEWAY SEALING
The same method used in roof repair is commonly used in driveway scams. The person was in the area and he had leftover material from a previous job. You will be given a price per square foot that is very low. Once the job is completed, you are informed that the price did not include labor. The material being sprayed is the same type of gasoline and paint mixture that was applied to the roof and will wash away when it rains. Even worse, the asphalt paving material is a short time. In some
cases, the material will not set up correctly, leaving a soft, wet surface.
In this type of scam, the con artists will give you an estimate to paint the exterior of your house. In
some cases, they may even offer to paint your vinyl siding. Once victims accept, the house will
be painted, using a brand name latex paint that has been watered down. While painting, the con
artist will allege that he found additional repair work that he had to fix prior to painting. The repair
work will be added to the bill when, in actuality,there was no repair work done. The paint that
was applied will not completely cover the old paint and can easily be washed away.
TERMITE AND PEST CONTROL
These con artists, like others, go door-to-door in a neighborhood, offering free termite and pest control inspections. Invariably,while inspecting your home, you will be shown a piece of termite-infested wood. The wood was brought with him and concealed from you. Once you are convinced you need the work done, they will spray the exterior and interior of your home around the foundation. This gives the appearance that your home is being rid of pests. The fact is, the foundation is being sprayed with water or an oil and water mixture that will accomplish nothing.
TREE PRUNING AND LANDSCAPING
A con artist will offer to prune your trees and possibly plant some saplings for a low price. Once done, you will be given a bill for a higher price and told that the original price was per branch, not
tree. You may also be sold saplings at an unbelievably low price. The key word is “unbelievable.” The saplings will soon die and you will discover that you bought tree limbs packed with soil and wrapped in burlap.
REMEMBER IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS!
Due to the fact that homeowners dread expensive repairs, individuals who commit fraud have fertile
ground on which to feed. Free inspections that reveal problems, workers who just happen to be in
the neighborhood and unusually low prices for expensive repairs all signal possible fraud. Following
are some prevention tips that will help you avoid becoming a victim.
Only do business with a well-known and established business. The company became
well known and established by providing good, quality work at fair prices.
Beware of contractors who just happen to be in the neighborhood. They will probably
tell you they had materials left over to complete another job.
Check with the Better Business Bureau.They can provide you with valuable information
about a company.
Always obtain a contract. The contract should include a starting date, a completion
date, the company’s name, address and telephone number. Also, obtain the name of
the salesperson and a complete itemized list of materials and costs.
Always obtain a lien waiver. The lien waiver says that the contractor performing the job
bears the cost burden of the materials and prohibits the contractor from putting a lien on
Beware of companies that require a large down payment. A reputable, established
company will have the resources to provide the labor and materials to complete the job
without your money.
The State of Missouri has a law in place that offers protection to consumers. The law provides
that you have the right to cancel any credit contract (not cash) within three business days. The
time period does not include Saturdays, Sundays or legal holidays. This applies if the seller solicited
and presented the contract in your home. The sales person must advise you of this law and it must be part of the contract.
If you want to cancel the contract, you must do so in writing. If you mail the notice of cancellation, the
letter must be properly addressed with postage paid and reach a mailbox within the cancellation
period. The cancellation may not be made under certain circumstances as described below:
The buyer requested the seller provide the goods or services without delay because
of an emergency; and
The seller, in good faith, made a substantial start toward fulfilling the agreement
before the notice of cancellation was given; and
If goods are involved, the items cannot be returned to the seller in “substantially”
as good condition as when received by the buyer.
In circumstances other than the ones described above, a home solicitor must return any payment
or trade-in goods received from the buyer within ten days after the notification of cancellation. The
seller must also mark the word “cancelled” on the contract.
If you cancel the agreement, the seller may request that you return any delivered merchandise.
The seller must pay postage if you are asked to ship it. However, if the seller does not request
that the goods be returned within 20 days of cancellation, you may keep the merchandise.
If you feel you are a victim, remember that having materials delivered or having a job partially completed may make the case civil in nature. While this pamphlet cannot cover all home repair
frauds, if you use the tips provided and use common sense, you will make yourself a less likely
target. If you have any questions, call the precinct in which you live or the Missouri Attorney
General’s Consumer and Welfare Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-800-392-8222 or file a complaint via
the internet at www.ago.mo.gov.