State urges caution when hiring contractor for work on your home

As home improvement season gets under way, the Department of State is advising residents to use caution when hiring a contractor to repair, improve or remodel their home.

You can check www.dos.ny.gov for resources and tips including a sample home improvement contract and a video on home improvement scams. If you have experienced any issue with a home improvement contractor and can’t resolve it yourself, you can file a complaint with DCP at www.dos.ny.gov or calling 1-800-697-1220.

Although many consumers are ultimately satisfied with their contractor’s work, there are instances where they face difficulty or financial loss due to an unpleasant experience with a home improvement contractor. The Division of Consumer Protection receives hundreds of complaints each year regarding a home contractor’s poor workmanship, overcharges, unfinished work and failure to show up or complete the job.

"We are providing this information to ensure that consumers are well informed, use caution and are familiar with their rights when dealing with home improvement contractors. New York consumers need to do their homework and make sure the contractor they hire is trustworthy and accountable," stated Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales.

Home improvement contractors perform a broad variety of work inside and outside the home, including carpentry, kitchen and bathroom renovation, basement finishing, masonry, chimney maintenance, roof repair and landscaping.

We advise consumers to follow these tips when selecting and working with a home improvement contractor:

Beware of Unsolicited Offers Be particularly cautious of individuals who show up at your doorsteps unannounced or contact you through telemarketing. Avoid contractors who demand payment in cash or want full payment up front, before work has begun.

Check References Hiring the first contractor you come across is not a good idea. Shop around. Get recommendations from people you know: your friends, neighbors and colleagues. Obtain local references from the contractor, and call them to check if they were satisfied with the work.

Licensing Requirements Before signing a contract and before making any payments, check to make sure that a contractor is licensed in your town or county. Don’t just take the contractor’s word for it.

Get Written Estimates Get at least three written estimates, especially if it’s going to be a big job. Be sure the estimates are detailed and specific, and cover issues such as the start date, the cost of any change orders, the expected completion date and when and how much of a down payment is required.

Get a Written Contract Always insist on a written contract, and make sure to get a copy. Do NOT agree to an oral contract. The contract should include: The timeline of the project, a specific description of the work and materials, the total price and payment schedule.

Get Proof of Insurance If a worker is injured, or damage is caused on your property, you could be held liable if the contractor does not have the proper insurance. Ask the contractor to provide you with proof of insurance. Don’t just take his word that he’s insured.

On the net: www.dos.ny.gov