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Home improvement scams are no laughing matter

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I’m a fan of Tim Allen’s role as an accident-prone handyman on the 90’s hit TV comedy, Home Improvement. But in reality, hiring a good contractor isn’t something you just fall into. It helps to know the signs of a home improvement scam.

If you’re not into DIY projects, it might make sense to hire a pro. Finding a capable and reliable contractor is important — a home improvement project gone wrong can cost you more than money; it can lead to delays, subpar work, and even legal problems.

A good ad isn’t proof a contractor does quality work. Find out for yourself. Check with friends, neighbors, or co-workers who’ve had improvement work done. Also check out a contractor’s reputation on online ratings sites you trust. Get written estimates from several firms, keeping in mind the lowest bidder may not be the best choice.

How can you tell if a contractor might not be reputable? Don’t do business with someone who:

  • pressures you for an immediate decision
  • only accepts cash, asks you to pay everything up-front, or tells you to borrow money from a lender the contractor knows
  • is not licensed. Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and/or bonded. Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency to find out about licensing requirements in your area.
  • “just happens” to have materials left over from a previous job.

For more tips, check out Hiring a Contractor.

Tagged with: home, home improvement, scam
Blog Topics: 
Homes & Mortgages


We hired a roofing contractor by the name of Terry Rolfes with "All-Star Roofing" in Sioux City,Iowa. He bid the job and we signed the contract and gave him a check for $3,500 for half of the job to pay for materials. He did not deliver the materials nor did he do any of the work. He promptly cashed the check and kept the money. We took him and All Star Roofing to small claims court and got judgment. We aren't the only family he scammed and now he wants to file bankruptcy. Isn't there something that consumers can do to not allow him to file bankruptcy to get out of paying back money that he stole?

You may want to talk to a legal aid lawyer, another attorney, or your State Attorney General's Office. 

Your state or county might have a bar association that can help you find a lawyer. This FTC article says more about hiring a lawyer.

Related to the last bullet point, "We happen to be working in the neighborhood already and can offer you a good price." Maybe true, maybe not but I don't take chances. We get several each year that come to the door with this claim. Of course, they never say where in the neighborhood.

I got scammed by a supposed auto shop pair of men who "just happened to have paint left over" from work done on a neighbor's Mercedes. They sprayed paint on my car's dents and oxidized paint, then added insult to injury by covering it with spray wax, telling me not to drive the car until it drive. Further insult, they had me make out my check to a non-existent person whose name was an actual Mexican hero of the 19th century. They cashed the check at a local check cashing company, having promised they would be back in a couple of days to finish their work. By the time I figured out what was wrong it was too late to stop the check at my credit union.

The best way to hire a contractor is to know your legal rights as a consumer. These types of blanket statements about contractors create a hostile working environment for the consumer, suppliers and contractors alike.

I was in the market for a roofing contractor. I checked the Better Business Bureau's website and interviewed the companies, but I was still scammed out of $3400 by an unscrupulous roofing contractor. I have written the Texas Attorney General, which only registered a complaint, but nothing to help me get my money back. I have hired an attorney who wrote a demand letter on my behalf, but unless I want to pay a couple thousand dollars in attorney fees, that's about as much as I can do. There are no consumer protections against fraudulent contractors. The police won't even take a report for theft, saying the matter is civil not criminal. What a crock!

i was not solicited by this company to do mold remediation. they had a. written contract with my insurance company who hired and paid them directly. What was supposed to be a simple drywall repair turned into a total abatement with asbestos by a company not licensed in hazardous materials. What do you do if the insurance company did not practice due diligence and check the type of license they hold and refused to pay for any repairs as I has a $10000,00 cap on mold which was not what causes the peril. my house is now condemned and I am having to sue insurance company for breach of contract and liability for repairs.

Report complaints about an insurance company, broker, agent or adjuster to your state’s Insurance Commission. To find your state regulator, visit the National Association of State Insurance Commissioners.

I want to warn everyone that they need to use a service that checks the background of the contractor they are thinking of hiring. My mom fell into the empty pool that had been chiseled down to the gunnite to prep for replastering. When we tried to get money from their insurance the company owner and associates dissappeared. Our Lawyers and a private investigator were unable to serve them with a court order.The reason ? Apparently a contractor had rented his company to these people and they took advantage of their good name and excellent rating on Angie's List to scam many people.Mom nearly died and we were grossly overcharged for the replastering and add on jobs .Now we know that the job warranty is worthless as well.

General Contractor refuses to make good the work he did on my house. He was by a Hud rehab Grant

If you think a contractor misused federal money from HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), you can report it to the HUD fraud hotline 1-800-347-3735 (Toll-Free), or by email:

The mail address is:

HUD Inspector General Hotline (GFI)
451 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20410

contractor,refuses to do repairs,that he left. After Hud Grant paid him. Being elderly,living alone I was scammed

scammed by general contractor, I'elderly,alone, have mental disability Penn Carpentry LLC.

In addition to the helpful tips above, you should request a written contract from the contractor that contains details such as the project description, warranties, payment schedule and expected completion date. Don't be in a haste to hire as it's very important to do your your research and to take your time in making a decision. Consider all the helpful tips above before hiring a home improvement contractor. Thanks for sharing!

If you get a written agreement, It does not stop the Contractor from scamming you. He knows he can hold out for as long as he wants to. For he knows, you will have to go through so many channels, so many people to enforce the agreement.

I live in a condominium community with an hoa and we have been scammed by a roofer FBM out of ennis Texas they put on a new roof for our 76 unit complex at a cost of 300,000 dollars and used recalled shingle then they misran the underlayment the wrong way and put the shingles on a 6" or better exposure they are supposed to be 5" Now we have a 15yr maybe roof with leaks and they wont fix it con we go to the fbi and the district attorneys office to get our money back or have them put on a new roof they have insurance We have people on the take here and they are just putting money in their pocket at the homeowners expense we pay dues for this to be done correctly but there is too much money for these people to steal now we were Hit by a tornado and they are collecting another 1.2 million to repair the damage and they ae covering up the costs and the money is being taken by others as payoffs

Cement in Texas I was scammed out of 2000.00 dollars paid to FAST-Contractors Llc. Even with all the checks through Home Advisor, I still got taken. I paid 2000 up front and they have never been back to do the work.

 You can report the business to the Federal Trade Commission  your state Attorney General’s office. Your local county or town may also take complaints or reports about local businesses and contractors.

. I am disabled physically . I had purchased flooring from Empire Today company here in Texas.I hired them because they were supposed to professionals and I didnt want any problems haha the joke was on me. They came in removed my carpet & replaced with tile in April 2016. In June I noticed the tiles were lifting and the floors rising my electric wheelchair won’t go over the rolling of my floors now. You can see the ground below the house in the dining room. After many calls they sent an inspector he said I had moisture and it is my fault. So I had some people who do tile regularly they looked at the damage and said the subfloor was not pretreated right. They said a under layment should have been used they looked a the cement/glue they used and said it was the problem but after arguing with them so many times my sister suggested contacting our local news station channel 10 news kwtx in Temple Texas. They came to the house and filmed they tried talking to the floor people to no avail. They argued with them too. So the floors are getting worse soon I will not be able to open and close my front door I can’t sleep & when I do I wake up dreading looking and trying to maneuver through my house which is only 1000 sq ft total. Soon it will be lifting my bed off the floor my couch is already lifted we had to move it. I contacted BBB, Attorney General, Federal Trade Commission, Legal aid I am afraid with winter coming no flooring exposed wood will make it easy for animals to come in.They still refuse to repair the damage. There are a lot of soft spots, openings.To repair the damage is estimated at $20,000

I have 4 different people that are elderly and disabled that had a contractor show us all a false registration badge, say he was registered insured and he wasn't, he started each project leaving us with over 3,500 damage each. Everyday I find another person he's doing this too. I reported it, as did they. I'm left without a bathroom and no help to fix it. They don't do anything to help. What's the point of the law?

I hate when I don't listen to my own gut feelings and later regret it. What I have learned is that "contractors", can and do rent contractors licenses from contractors who have retired, or just no longer involved. The rental fees can be $1000.00 or more a month. Scammers will rent the license, charge their customer a lot of money to remodel or repair their home, send cheap laborers over to do the work, and all you get is a mess. This practice seems to be a HUGE ordeal here in California. I am certain that I have recently fallen victim to this very issue. I searched the company in great depth, along with every person I can find that is affiliated with the company, and it is a scam. The problem is, these people prey on the elderly and there isn't enough punishment when/if they are even caught. First, people have to file complaints, and most consumers don't. I will NEVER use AngiesList, HomeAdvisor, Porch or any other lame, irresponsible web site again when/if i need a contractor. Checking the license through the contractors license board is also a joke because it is very confusing. A license can be legit and Active, but the actual OWNER will be disassociated with it. I believe that a contractor should require a license and be required to be on the job. it should just be the law. Also, all contractors license holders should be required to carry a license with their photo. This world is consumed with scammers. I am fixing the issues caused by the contractor, filing a complaint, will file a claim against the OWNER and I'll do my own work from now on.

Sub referring a Sub: Excellent drywaller referred a "painter" for my interior repaired wall. I was disarmed & trusting. The so called painter used business card for retired painter & demanded $900.00 up front. Coincidently an amt.$ in"Petty Thief" V.S. Grand Theft range. When he thought he had received my check/money; his phone messages avoided committing to a work date and were joking in nature. When he realized he had not gotten my $, all of a sudden; "painting the recent drywall was an emergency."

was scammed by a person claimed they worked for clayton homes .. only reason hired the person.

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