As the Niagara Region slowly starts to experience nice weather, many residents are anxious to begin home renovation projects such as new roof shingles, driveway repair / resurfacing, fence replacement, or new windows.
Choosing, and hiring, the right contractor is critical to getting not only excellent workmanship but also, in some isolated incidents, preventing becoming a victim of a criminal fraudster / scam.
The complaints that the Niagara Regional Police Service receives from the public about home contractors often involve:
Contractors who travelling from door-to-door selling services that are unsolicited by any consumer, . In many cases, the contractor will provide quotes for services that appear to be better than competitive prices. Once a deal is struck the contractor will request a large cash down payment. Initial work may start on the project, however based on police complaints the work will be sub-par and incomplete. After the initial work is done, the consumer is often approached to provide more money for supplies or to complete payment for the project. Once final payment is received the contractor is usually never heard from again, phone calls will go unanswered thus leaving the consumer with damage or a partially completed project.
The “contractor” who is perpetrating the scam can be very aggressive and pushy, eager to acquire the initial cash deposit from the consumer. Often a series of business cards, pamphlets and basic printed contracts accompany the door-to-door sales pitch.
Central to the sales pitch is the anonymity of the contractor, workers and company, later research on the contractor yields a lack of any official presence online, any registration with local Chambers of Commerce, Better Business Bureau or otherwise.
In many cases the phone number(s) initially provided to the consumer by the contractor may be answered for a short period of time to shore up the deal, afterwards the phone number is disconnected or goes unanswered, this is often the consumer’s only link to the contractor.
Consumer disputes are often resolved through civil remedy, however if you feel that you are a victim of a fraud, please contact the Niagara Regional Police Service to file a report 905-688-4111.
The Niagara Regional Police Service provides the following consumer protection tips / information to consumers to assist them when considering hiring a contractor for their home.
Get recommendations from people you trust. Do your research online. Don’t be pressured to make a quick decision. Take a minute. Prior to initiating work ensure the contractor is insured. Get multiple written estimates. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Check references of past jobs. AVOID CASH DEALS. Be leery of unsolicited offers via the phone, or door to door.
Put it on Paper
Work requested and agreed upon. Dates – Start, benchmarks, and finish. Exact Cost of the project. Payment Schedule – 10% Deposit at the start, final full amount upon satisfactory completion of agreed upon work. Acquire a receipt. Acquire a guarantee / warranty information.
For further Information please reference:
Consumer Protection Ontario
Canadian Anti-Fraud Center