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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > April 2014 > How to Research Home Improvement Contractors

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How to Research Home Improvement Contractors

If you are considering a home repair this spring, make sure you know how to find a good contractor and avoid scammers.

Begin by asking family and friends for recommendations of reliable contractors. Word-of-mouth recommendations are among the best ways to find reputable businesses. If possible, check out the work contractors have done for previous customers.

Be skeptical of contractors who show up to your door unexpectedly. The Attorney General’s Office routinely takes legal action against door-to-door contractors who make great promises but then take consumers’ money and do shoddy work or no work at all.

Research the contractor by checking complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. A search for complaints filed against the business will help you determine whether it is trustworthy. Even if you don’t find complaints, don’t assume the contractor is reliable. Unscrupulous contractors and scam artists often change their business names regularly to fool unsuspecting consumers, which is why referrals are always helpful. Also, consider conducting an online search using the name of the contractor followed by words such as “reviews” or “scam.”

Once you narrow your selection to several contractors, get written estimates from each one for the work you want to have done. Compare the estimates before making a decision.

Once you select a contractor, get everything in writing. A written contract should include:
  • Your full name and address
  • Contractor’s name, address, and phone number
  • Complete description of the work to be done
  • Provision requiring your written approval for any changes
  • Explanations of any guarantee or warranty
  • Any verbal promises the contractor makes
  • Total cost of the work
  • Specific terms for payment of materials and labor
  • Starting and completion dates
  • Requirement for the contractor to obtain all necessary permits and inspections
  • Your signature and the contractor’s signature
The contract should not require you to pay a large down payment or payment in full until the project is complete and inspected. If possible, avoid paying in cash because it leaves you with little paper trail if something goes wrong. Also, be aware that if the contract includes a mandatory arbitration clause, you may be waiving your right to sue.

Keep in mind that under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act, you have three days to cancel most contracts signed at your home or at a location that is not a company’s normal place of business, such as a home improvement show. All cancellations must be in writing.

Door-to-door salespeople must notify you of your right to cancel and provide a cancellation form. Don’t do business with contractors who do not provide the cancellation form.

Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or visit