Consumer Protection Reminds the Public: Be Cautious, Do Your Research Before Starting Home Improvement Projects
Consumers can protect themselves from seasonal home improvement scams and fraud
HARTFORD –Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli is reminding the public to be wary of fraud and scams as they prepare for the season’s home improvement projects.
DCP receives more than 1,000 complaints about home improvement each year, and it’s routinely the highest complaint area. Complaints related to deposits and a failure to complete contracted work are the top complaints related to home improvement.
DCP received 92 complaints in 2022, and an additional 24 complaints have been filed this year where contractors accepted deposits and failed to perform contracted work.
“Spring is when many homeowners find time to make improvements to their property, but the process can quickly become a nightmare if consumers don’t do their due diligence before beginning a project,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli. “Do your research, brush up on what does and does not qualify as home improvement work, as well as what type of work might require a licensed tradesperson, understand what should be included in your contract, and the best way to pay a deposit. These are just a few things that can prevent costly headaches for consumers down the road.”
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 people who have completed similar projects. Talk to trusted friends, family and neighbors, and search online and on social media to see who others in your community recommend – or don’t recommend. It’s also a good idea to check litigation history online by visiting the Connecticut Judicial Branch website.
- 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.
- Be cautious with deposits. Consumers should pay deposits using a traceable form of payment, like a check, Venmo or Zelle. Never pay in cash, gift cards or another untraceable payment method. Consumers are also advised to only pay a small deposit up front. A best practice is to pay one-third up front, one-third part-way through the project, and the final third once the work has been completed.
- Check on the building permit. Check with your town building official to confirm a permit has been pulled by the contractor. Permits are an additional form of consumer protection, ensuring projects will be completed in accordance with the most up to date building codes. Building officials should also check Home Improvement Contractor registrations to add a second measure of protection.
- 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.
- When appropriate, hire a licensed tradesperson. Skilled work often done as part of a home improvement project (such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC) will likely require a more specific license that involves additional training and certification. Tradesperson credentials can be verified by visiting www.elicense.ct.gov
Home improvement contractors and skilled trades are credentialed with the Department of Consumer Protection, and consumers who have complaints may file with the department by visiting www.ct.gov/DCP/complaint.
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