Officials Urge Consumers to be Cautious, do their Research Before Starting Home Improvement Projects
As home improvement season continues during the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers remain vulnerable to fraud and scams
Saturday, May 16th, 2020 – The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull and Attorney General William Tong are urging people to be wary of fraud and scams as they prepare for the season’s home improvement projects.
DCP receives over 1000 complaints about home improvement each year, and it’s routinely the highest complaint area.
Those who are considering home improvement projects should:
- Ensure their contractor is registered. Registrations can be verified by visiting www.elicense.ct.gov. Hiring a registered contractor can help consumers gain access to the home improvement guaranty fund should something go wrong.
- Check for references. If a contractor won’t provide references upon request – that’s a red flag. Consumers should ask for references from those who have had projects similar to theirs (for example, if you wanted your bathroom updated, you wouldn’t ask for references from people who have put a new fence in their yard). Search online and on social media to see who others in your community recommend.
- Have a written contract – it’s the law. Contractors should never start work without a signed contract. Consumers should ask any questions they have before signing their contract to clarify things like project timeline and payment plan. Remember, you have a three day right to cancel home improvement contracts in the State of Connecticut.
- Remember, if an offer sounds too good to be true – it probably is. If someone shows up at your door, and offers to give you a deal on work because they “just completed a job in your neighborhood, and have left-over supplies,” or are “offering a deal”, but only if you agree immediately, and provide a sizable down payment, don’t fall for it – it’s almost never the bargain you think it is.
- Check on the building permit: Check with your town building official to confirm a permit has been pulled by the contractor. Building officials should also check HIC registrations, they add a second measure of protection.
“Even with many of us staying home, a large number of businesses that are able to follow social distancing guidelines are still operating – including home improvement,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull, “In fact, more of us may want to spend time and money improving our homes because we’re spending more time there. That’s why it’s so important to do our due diligence in times like these.”
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Now is the season for many to start home improvement projects, but it’s more important than ever to be smart and safe. Check to make sure your contractor is registered with the state, ask for references, and make sure you have a written contract before you commit to any project. And during this public health emergency, make sure your contractor has a social distancing plan to keep you and all workers safe. Take your time, and don’t be pressured to make any decisions on the spot,” said Attorney General Tong.
Home improvement contractors and skilled trades are credentialed with DCP, and consumers who have complaints may file with the department by visiting www.ct.gov/DCP/complaint.
Department of Consumer Protection
Lora Rae Anderson
(860) 247-8711 (cell)
Office of the Attorney General