Ding Dong....Who's At the Door?
Tips on How to Avoid Falling Victim to Home Renovation Fraud
Spring and summer always seem to bring some new angles on home renovation frauds, mostly targeted at seniors. In fact last spring, the Toronto Star reported on a court case in which one home renovator targeted seniors through a company called Stay at Home Renovations.
An investigation by the province discovered more than 90 victims who were allegedly defrauded by this one company. Virtuallyall of the homeowners targeted were seniors living on pensions, nine of them were older than 90, and they were defrauded a total of over one million dollars.
With more and more families considering ‘aging in place,’ fraudulent home renovators will likely be even more common. Aging in place is the concept of planning ahead; thinking of how to modify your home to ensure you can live comfortably and safely as you grow older. Families already under pressure to start renovations such as wider doorways or ramps may be more susceptible to an eager handy man offering a special deal or a discount for seniors.
The more home owners are aware of both the warning signs and tips to protect themselves, the more equipped they will be to avoid falling victim to home renovation fraud.
10 Red Flag Warnings
- A contractor appears uninvited at your doorstep and points out something that needs to be fixed or offers to do a free inspection.
- The contractor wants access inside your home to complete an ‘inspection.’
- He says he has been doing work in the neighborhood and has extra material left over. He could give you a deal.
- The contractor says you are in need of urgent repairs – and that is news to you.
- You feel pressured to make a decision on the spot.
- He offers a special deal that is only being offered today.
- The contractor cannot produce any identification.
- He proposes beginning the work without any local permits.
- The business card he gives you shows a PO Box and not a street address.
- The contractor demands full payment up front and may even ask for cash.
8 Tips to Protect Yourself
- Get multiple estimates from reputable home repair contractors.
- Ask for and contact references.
- Ask your friends and neighbors who they recommend.
- See if the business is registered with the Better Business Bureau. Are they listed in the telephone book, on the Internet and/or with a local trade association?
- Check to see that the contractor is licensed, bonded, insured and covered by Workmen’s Compensation. A reputable contractor will produce this information.
- Do not let a person who has just shown up at your door into your home.
- If you do hire a contractor, never pay in full and never pay if the only option is cash. Do not pay more than 25 to 33% of the total job cost as a deposit. Hold off on the final payment until all of the work is done and you are satisfied.
- Involve your adult children, trusted friend, financial planner or lawyer in reviewing the work you are considering. Asking for someone else’s opinion does not minimize your independence; it simply helps to protect your hard earned assets.
As we get older and want to ensure our homes are as accessible and comfortable as possible, home renovations may be required.
But there are many reputable contractors who can help provide excellent quality work that you can count on.
Jeffrey Kerr, Broker, RE/MAX Unique Inc.
Dedicated to helping families and individuals buy or sell Accessible Homes
Master Accredited Senior Agent, Senior Real Estate Specialist
Direct Land Line: 416-424-2222,