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May kicks off the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation Home Improvement Contractor Program awareness campaign.

Massachusetts law requires contractors to register as a Home Improvement Contractor with this Office. The law protects consumers against shoddy or incomplete work and regulates the practices of home improvement contractors. Some contractors are unaware of the registration requirement and our office has increased its efforts to raise awareness of this law. However, some contractors remain unregistered in an attempt to scam consumers out of thousands of dollars.

If your contractor tells you he doesn’t need to be registered, check with our office. It might be a scam! We’ve put together some common scams that homeowners should be on the lookout for:

  • It’s a “1-Day Only” Deal: Scammers often appear at a homeowner’s door offering to do a job at a steeply discounted price. They claim to have leftover materials from a recently finished job and don’t want them to go to waste. This type of scam usually results in additional costs from an “unexpected issue.” If the homeowner protests, the scammers may threaten to leave the job unfinished.
  • There is no proof his business exists: Is his vehicle unmarked? Does he have a website or a business card? Is he registered with the Better Business Bureau? A reputable and legitimate contractor shouldn’t be impossible to track down. If you can’t find any information on him or his business, be suspicious.
  • Did a severe weather event just come through your town or neighborhood: Scammers use severe weather events, like tornadoes, as an opportunity to take advantage of already vulnerable homeowners. They offer their services at a discount and use low-quality materials.
  • He’ll only accept cash for the job and needs it up front. This scenario has red flag written all over it. Run, don’t walk, from this scam. You should only pay cash upfront if you’re using a registered contractor and you have a contract. And even then, don’t pay more than 1/3 of the cost upfront.

How can a consumer protect themselves from a home improvement scammer?

  • Use a registered contractor! Visit our website for more information: http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/hic-consumers.html
  • Check at least three references
  • Have a contract
  • Trust your instincts. If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

 

Sources: Reader’s Digest, Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Reports.

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