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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > April 2022 > Watch Out for Home Improvement Scams

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Watch Out for Home Improvement Scams

As outside temperatures heat up, Ohioans will undoubtedly dive-in to new home improvement projects ranging from staining decks to installing new roofs. Many contractors do a great job, but unfortunately some contractors prove to be less than reputable. It’s important to do your homework before hiring a contractor; this includes getting more than one estimate, asking for references, and avoiding large down payments.

While there are many legitimate contractors, home improvement scammers often ask for large down payments but simply take the money and run, leaving homeowners with no repairs and no refunds. Then, they usually move on to another customer to repeat their scheme. Some unscrupulous contractors may start a significant project only to stop their work without any notice, leaving the job unfinished. They may try to stall with false promises to finish the job, or they may ignore phone calls altogether. Others may simply perform shoddy work, leaving homeowners with projects that need to be completely redone.

One way to avoid becoming a victim of home improvement scams is to thoroughly vet the contractor before hiring them. Research guidelines include:
  • Get recommendations. Successful contractors will make it easy to access feedback on their work and related documentation.
  • Research multiple contractors. Obtaining at least three written estimates from three different contractors could help you weed out bad apples. Beware of contractors that have only a few projects for you to review.
  • Ask for licensing, certification and proof of insurance. Depending on the project you are going to undertake, this may be important to the safety of your renovation.
  • Go online. Check out the company’s reputation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. You can also search for previous lawsuits filed by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section.
Follow these tips to help avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim:
  • Do not make a large down payment. Instead, pay in increments – for example, one-third at the beginning of the job, one-third after half of the work is completed to your satisfaction and one-third when the job is completed.
  • Avoid paying in cash. It leaves you with a limited paper trail if something goes wrong.
  • Get all promises in writing.
  • Be cautious of contractors who want payment made out to themselves as individuals, instead of a company.
  • Understand that Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act provides consumers with a three-day cancellation period for most contracts signed at their own home. The law also applies to contracts signed at any location that is not a company’s normal place of business (such as a home improvement show).
  • Look for the red flags of a traveling scam artist. If a contractor claims to have leftover materials from a nearby job or offers unbelievably low prices, be suspicious.  
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.