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Consumer alert: NYS DCP reminds New Yorkers of home improvement scams, offers protection tips


Tue, Mar 26th 2024 12:35 pm

Guest Editorial by the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection

For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection shares tips to prevent home improvement scams.

Home improvement scams have consistently ranked among New Yorkers’ top 5 consumer complaints. As we head into spring, New Yorkers may be considering making improvements around their homes. However, contractor fraud and home improvement scams can cost homeowners thousands of dollars and leave them with poor workmanship or unfinished projects.

Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “Unfortunately, springtime can be scamming time when it comes to home improvements. Imagine having work done on your house only to find out the ‘improvements’ actually made the problems worse because of shoddy work or someone ran off with your money without finishing the job. Before agreeing to home improvement projects, I urge you to learn how to avoid costly mistakes with tips from our Consumer Protection Division.”

Before you decide on a contractor, consider the following list of tips to avoid common home improvement scams.

•Shop around: Get at least three estimates that include detailed information about materials, services to be provided, and a projected timeline.

•Know who you hire: Ask friends and neighbors to recommend contractors they have worked with. Check the references provided by the contractors. Look into local home builder associations that may recommend reputable contractors and provide support if there is a dispute.

•Check your local government licensing requirements: NYS does not license home improvement contractors, but some counties and local municipalities do. Look into what is required in your area, and be sure the contractor has proper licensure and has insurance.

•Get it in writing and be sure the contract includes:

√ The contractors’ name, address and phone number.

√ Estimated timeline with start and finish date.

√ Detailed description of the work to be completed.

√ Detailed pricing that includes a list of supplies and labor costs.

√ Scammers will knock on your door suggesting improvements they can help you with like new windows or the latest solar panels. Some may claim to be in the area and to have materials left over from a previous job.

√ Scammers will pressure you for an immediate decision.

√ Scammers will recommend a lender they know to help pay for the job. Don’t finance through your contractor.

•Know your rights: You have three days to cancel after signing a contract for home improvements. All cancellations must be in writing.

•Never pay full price up front: Establish a payment schedule tied to completing specific jobs. Don’t pay with cash or wire transfer. Withhold final payment until the entire project is completed to your satisfaction.


√ Running into a problem? First, speak with the contractor and try to reach a resolution. If a resolution is not possible, file a complaint with your local consumer protection agency, the New York State Division of Consumer Protection at https://dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection, or the New York State attorney general at https://ag.ny.gov/file-complaint.

For more tips, check out our comprehensive guide designed to help homeowners avoid home improvement scams.

About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The consumer assistance helpline (1-800-697-1220) is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection. For other consumer protection tips and consumer alerts, consumers can follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to an email or phone here.

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