Contractor Fraud – Don’t Rush Into Home Projects

Happy June! While it hasn’t officially begun it certainly feels like summer! Even though it is unseasonably hot, I do enjoy these long evenings.

June is a month that brings awareness to a very important issue: the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older Americans.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Every year on June 15th the world gathers to raise awareness of this issue. Crimes against older people are some of the most persistent and heart-breaking crimes we see. I created a unit specifically focused on elder abuse and at-risk adults. I am very pleased to report that, along with our Unit and in collaboration with multiple Metro-Denver agencies and the Denver Police Department, elder fraud and crime is receiving the direct attention and action it deserves. We truly value our partnership with community members and those working to protect older residents from being exploited and possibly losing their life savings.
COVID-19 spread a wave of new scams and fraud targeting seniors. Almost every week fraudsters tried to sell snake oil to prevent or cure COVID-19, get government checks faster, or require people to use a gift card to make a purchase. Click here to find the RED FLAGS and signs of elder abuse.

On June 15th our office recognized and honored members of the community, a department store loss prevention employee, a bank branch manager, a community resource officer, all of whom went above and beyond to prevent incidents of financial exploitation of an older individual. Their expertise and quick thinking prevented these victims from losing a total of $52,000 to criminals.

This month’s newsletter will inform you about construction scams which always increase this time of year as home-improvement projects begin.

As always, keep safe and stay well,

Home Projects & Contractors

Not all contractor issues can be anticipated, but there are steps to take prior to hiring one that can help avoid financial losses, project delays, or a contractor disappearing in the middle of a job.

Consider the Following:

The greatest number of complaints received by law enforcement is against door-to-door contractors, especially those who come knocking right after a hailstorm or a severe weather incident. The most common complaints about contractors is nonperformance, including botched craftsmanship, excessive delays and exceeding the budget without approval.

Picking the Right Contractor Is Up to You – Do Your Research.

Whether you are dealing with hail damage to your auto or your home’s roof, the same advice holds true:

Do your research before hiring a contractor. Take your time in hiring, read testimonials, use the Better Business Bureau website, seek advice and most importantly, ask questions. Remember, a locally-owned company may be easier to follow up with if there are any issues after the work has been performed. Click on this link to verify a contractor’s license to make sure the company is fully licensed and insured.

Check References.

Companies should be able to provide contact information for three previous clients. Take the time to call each of them regarding the services and professionalism of the contractor. Check out your rights under The Consumer Protection/Roofing Bill from the Colorado Roofing Association.

Get Three Bids:

Door-to-door contractors are not necessarily scam artists; but doing business with one out of sheer convenience is risky. Don’t fall into the trap of getting a ‘great deal’ or relying on a recommendation from friends. Getting three bids on the front end, is far less time consuming and costly than trying to remedy poor workmanship on the back end.

Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Contractors:

Employ only licensed contractors.
Insist on a written and detailed contract that documents what will be done, by whom, and by when before work begins.
Pay by credit card, not cash and keep all receipts so you can dispute charges later.
Pay no more than 10% of the job’s total cost until the work is complete.
Get documentation of the completed work, warranty of the product and, if appropriate, get a copy of payment to be filed with your insurance company.
Require the contractor (not you, the homeowner) to pull a permit for each project. A permit protects the resale value of your home and is required by lending institutions.
If you don’t get a permit, insurance coverage may be cancelled. The permit holder (the contractor) is responsible for compliance with the building code.
Make payments beyond a deposit to your contractor only when you get something in return, such as materials delivered to your address.
Never pay in full until the job is complete, inspected and the building permit closed.

Warning Signs

At times contractors offer to do free inspections of your project. Keep an eye on what they are looking at as scammers often report more damage than there is (sometimes creating the damage themselves) and then offer to repair or replace it at no cost. Be wary of door-to-door sales contractors, especially after a major storm event. Schedule the work for a time that’s convenient for you not the contractor.

One more thing: Contractors May be Committing Insurance Fraud if They:

Offer to pay an insurance deductible.
Suggest overbilling your insurance company to reimburse you for your deductible.
Offer a no-cost incentive.

Keep in mind, under the Colorado Mechanics Lien Law, subcontractors and suppliers have the right to place a lien on an owner’s property if they are not paid by the hiring contractor. The law ensures that subcontractors and suppliers are fairly paid for the value they provide to a home because of their work.

New projects can be fun or a headache. It all depends on your research and knowledge of your rights.