Home improvement scams are no laughing matter

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


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