Department Reminds Consumers to Watch for Scammers Offering Home Repairs
HARTFORD, August 30 -- Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein is reminding consumers not to hire unknown contractors who come to the door or post notices on bulletin boards or online, offering home repairs in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.
“Hiring an unknown, unregistered contractor may cost you greatly -- adding insult to injury – if you overpay or get defrauded,” Rubenstein said. “Even after a major storm such as Irene, I urge consumers to be diligent and cautious in whom they hire, as there is a strong probability that disreputable, unscrupulous workers will be canvassing neighborhoods offering roof and gutter repairs, tree services, repaving, and dozens of other home services. Verify the registration and insurance of these workers before agreeing to let them work on your property.”
All home improvement contractors -- including roofers, driveway pavers, and persons who install fences, siding, gutters, insulation, windows, masonry and underground fuel storage tanks -- must be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection. In addition, plumbers, heating and ventilation workers, sheet metal workers, electricians and many other professionals require a current Connecticut license in order to practice their craft.
“A home improvement registration provides valuable consumer protection,” Rubenstein said. "The Home Improvement Guaranty Fund can provide victimized consumers with up to $15,000 restitution per contract, but only if they used a registered contractor. There's no good reason for a reputable contractor to skirt this requirement, and no reason for a homeowner to work with an unregistered or unlicensed individual. The damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene is bad enough; we don’t want consumers hurt by disreputable contractors as well. ”
Contractors are required by law to print their Connecticut license number on their contracts, business cards, on their vehicles, and in all advertising. A consumer can verify a contractor’s registration at www.ct.gov/dcp and selecting “verify a license.”
“You should check the occupational license or home improvement registration number of any repair person that you hire, to be sure that they are in good standing and do not have a large number of consumer complaints on their record,” Rubenstein said.
Insurance is another area that consumers should be mindful of. A contractor should carry their own liability insurance and must be able to produce an insurance certificate as proof. The certificate should carry the name of the insurance company and the homeowner is urged to call the insurance agency on the certificate to confirm that coverage. To verify if an insurance agent or agency is licensed in Connecticut, please visit the Connecticut Insurance Department web page at http://www.cidverifylicense.ct.gov/CLIC/VerifyLicense.aspx
Despite the sense of urgency brought on by the widespread storm damage, Commissioner Rubenstein urges consumers to follow the recommended procedure for hiring a contractor, and not rush to action.
“Getting a detailed contract is still very important in order to protect consumers from potential damages or misunderstandings,” Rubenstein said. “Consumers need to check all the terms and conditions, materials, start date, end date and costs, and if necessary, insist that any changes be written in,” Rubenstein said. “Both the consumer and contractor must sign and date the contract, and the consumer must get a completed copy for safekeeping.”
Home improvement contract s must include a 3-day Notice of Cancellation that allows the consumer 72 hours to change his or her mind. It must also include clear instructions on how a consumer is to cancel that contract – a valid phone number, fax number, and/or mailing address must be provided.
Consumers who have questions or concerns are encouraged to contact the Department of Consumer Protection at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-842-2649, or the Connecticut Insurance Department at 800-203-3447 or online at www.ct.gov/cid.