Crime Prevention

January 15th, 2013
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Potential Home Improvement Scam in Manchester Township

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Written by: Lt. David Lash
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On 01.14.2013 the Northern York County Regional Police Department investigated a potential home improvement scam that occurred on 01.11.2013 in Manchester Township.

On 01.11.2013 around dusk a subject knocked on the door of  a residence in the 2500 block of Mayfield Street in Manchester Township.  The subject advised the elderly homeowner that he had just finished seal coating a neighbor’s driveway and had extra material.  The homeowner agreed to a price with the subject and the the seal coat job was completed.  After the finishing the seal coating, the subject returned to the home and advised that additional money was needed to cover the completed work.

The homeowner and the subject negotiated a new price and payment was made.

The National Center For the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud offers the following advice when dealing with contractors.  Additional information can be obtained from their website at www.ncphif.org

Contractor Do’s
1. Always contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
2. Work only with licensed contractors.
3. Always get the contractor’s full name, physical address (not a PO Box), business phone, cell phone number, contractor’s license number, truck license plate state and number. If they won’t give you this – DON’T USE THEM!
4. Verify the business phone and address, and check on the Internet, the Better Business Bureau, and with your state consumer agency or attorney general’s office to see if previous customers have reported complaints.
5. Verify the license expiration date is current
6. Make sure the contractor has enough insurance and liability coverage. If you use a contractor without it, make sure to get liability waivers and lien waivers to protect yourself. You should always contact your insurance agent for information and advice.
7. Make sure the contractor is bonded and has liability, worker’s compensation and property damage insurance.

Contractor Do Not’s

1. Do not use a contractor who is going door to door.
2. Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.
3. Does not list a number in the phone book.
4. Asks you to get any required building permits.
5. Only accepts cash.
6. Says your job will be a demonstration.
7. Offers exceptionally long guarantees.
8. Asks you to pay for the entire job up front.
9. Tries to scare you into signing for repairs claiming they are urgent.
10. Demands a lien on your property.
11. Do not use a contractor who can start the job “tomorrow.” Consider that a good
contractor is most likely a busy person and will often need to schedule your project along
with his others. A bad contractor “can start the job tomorrow” because he may not have
any other work.

Your Contractor Checklist

Make sure the contract you sign has all this information included.
1. Contractor’s full name
2. Business address: (this is a physical address not a PO Box)
3. Business phone
4. Cell phone
5. Contractor’s license number
6. Truck license plate state and number.
7. Are you a “residential” contractor?
8. How many years of experience do you have?
9. Will you be billing my insurance company or me? (Make sure your insurance agent is aware
of this before you file a claim.)
10. What kind of materials will you be using for this project?
11. Can I see a breakdown list of costs? (i.e. labor, insurance, materials, overhead).
12. Will the estimate detail the plans and specifications? (This will allow you to compare
several estimates based on identical project specifications.)
13. Do you have experience dealing with insurance adjusters and companies?
14. How long before you will be able to begin work?
15. How long will the project take?
16. Is your company bonded?
17. Is your company state licensed? (Check with your state licensing agency, local building
inspectors or consumer protection officials to find out about licensing requirements in your
area.)
18. Do you carry the following types of insurance: Personal liability, Worker’s compensation,
Property damage?
19. Can you provide a Certificate of Liability Insurance? (Then verify it with the insurance
company.)
20. Will you arrange for any subcontractors for cleaning or repairing, and guarantee in writing
that they are licensed, insured and experienced?
21. What is your warranty? (Remember the warranty is only good as long as the contractor is
in business.)
22. What procedures for corrective action will be in the contract if I am not happy with any
portion of the project?

 

Requests for Payment

1. NEVER EVER PAY CASH! Pay your contractor by check or credit card so you have documentation and recourse should you need it.
2. Never pay for the job upfront or you may never see this “contractor” again. No reputable contractor will ask for most—or all—of his payment immediately. Most legitimate contractors only bill AFTER the job is done to your satisfaction.
3. Never prepay more than $1,000 or 10% of the job total, whichever is less. That’s the legal maximum in some states, and enough to establish that you’re a serious customer so the contractor can work you into his schedule—the only valid purpose of an advance payment. As to the materials and backhoe rentals, if he’s a professional in good standing, his suppliers will provide them on credit.
4. Never fork over a large down payment for materials.
5. Define and set up payment terms in conjunction with completed stages of the job. If a contractor makes a mistake or says he needs more money from you, DON’T give it to him.  It’s his responsibility to fix his error. Make sure your contract references this issue.
6. Never pay a contractor the balance of the job, or sign a completion certificate, until all work has been finished.

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