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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > April 2017 > Look Out for Spring Home Improvement Scams

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Look Out for Spring Home Improvement Scams

It’s hard to predict weather from one day to the next, but as the weather heats up and the stormy seasons begin, we can make one prediction: The home improvement scammers will be out in neighborhoods across Ohio preying on consumers.

Often called “storm chasers,” these con artists offer to clean up debris, repair roofs, remove tree limbs, and perform other home improvement efforts after a storm, tornado, or other bad weather. After convincing consumers to make a large down payment for the work they promise to perform, some storm chasers simply take the money and run, leaving homeowners with no repairs and no refunds. Other times, they perform shoddy work or only start the promised work, then stop showing up or taking homeowners’ phone calls.

In February, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that a Cincinnati-area man had been sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $104,000 in restitution for running a roofing scam that affected dozens of consumers in southwest Ohio.

David M. Nelson, of Norwood, pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and one count of insurance fraud. 

“Our goal is to protect Ohio’s families and that includes cracking down on scam artists who rip them off,” Attorney General DeWine said. “This case involved a classic scam. The defendant took money and provided nothing in return.”

According to investigators, Nelson scammed 24 homeowners in multiple counties within the greater Cincinnati area between 2014 and 2015. He contacted consumers at their homes, claimed their roofs were damaged, and encouraged them to file an insurance claim. After accepting their insurance money, he failed to provide any services in return. As part of the scheme, he also damaged consumers’ roofs to create the appearance of storm damage and provided false insurance claim information.
The case was investigated by Attorney General DeWine’s Economic Crimes Unit with assistance from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Department of Insurance, Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, Colerain Police Department, and West Chester Police Department.  A special prosecutor with Attorney General DeWine’s Economic Crimes Unit handled the case after being appointed by the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office. 

To help consumers avoid home improvement problems, Attorney General DeWine offered the following recommendations:
  • Research a company before making any payments. Search for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau. Also, conduct an internet search with the name of the business and words like “reviews” or “complaints.” Be skeptical if you find no information. Some operators change business names regularly to make it harder for consumers to detect their record of shoddy work.
  • Get multiple estimates. For a large job, consider contacting at least three different businesses before making a final selection. Keep in mind that the company that gives you the lowest estimate may not necessarily deliver the best results.
  • Check your cancellation rights. If a seller does not have a fixed place of business or comes to your door to offer services, you may be entitled to a three-day right to cancel the contract under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. Make sure you receive detailed written information about your cancellation rights.
  • Make sure verbal promises are put in writing. Get a detailed written contract including any verbal claims the contractor makes and other important details, such as the estimated cost of the work, the expected start and end dates, and the names of the individuals who will perform the services.
  • Be wary of requests for large down payments or cash payments. It’s reasonable for a contractor to require a down payment, but be skeptical if you’re asked to make a large down payment (such as half or more of the total cost) before any work begins. If possible, pay in increments as the work is completed. Also be wary if you’re asked to pay in cash, which will be difficult to recover if something goes wrong.
If you suspect a home improvement scam or an unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting