Consumer Corner Column

June Consumer Corner: Be wary on summer construction projects

Release Date: Jun 01, 2011

By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt

Summer can be a time to catch up on those home improvement projects that have been building up through the winter months.

So with the increase in home improvement projects, it’s no surprise that our office also sees an increase in complaints about home-improvement scams.

Now, a dispute between a legitimate home-improvement contractor and a homeowner about the quality, timeliness or nature of work provided more often than not is a private legal matter over which our office has no jurisdiction. But when the contractor is fraudulent or engages in deceptive or unconscionable practices to scam Kansans out of their hard-earned money, the law gives us the authority to intervene.

Homeowners should be especially wary of people going door-to-door offering services. It is not uncommon for these roving sales people to target homes where the homeowner is particularly vulnerable – an older person who lives alone, for example.

One common scam involves someone claiming to be a contractor approaching a homeowner saying they have leftover materials from a nearby job. Then, they offer to do the work at a highly discounted rate if they homeowner can pay a portion in advance. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It is always a good idea to get multiple bids on home improvement projects to ensure quotes are within the competitive rates.

The best advice our office can give when selecting a contractor is to use your references. Working with a well-known, reputable, local contractor is always the best way to go. Friends, family and neighbors are the best sources for recommendations. The Better Business Bureau offers an online directory of accredited businesses, and there are a number of websites that offer reviews of local contractors. You should be sure any contractor you work with is insured and carries all of the required local permits. Finally, do not give final payment for any work until it has been completed to your satisfaction.

If you do fall victim to a scam, our office is here to help. You can file a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division by visiting our website, www.ksag.org, or by calling (785) 296-3751 or (800) 432-2310. Even if we find that there has not been a violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, the staff in our office can provide information on options to settle your disputes. This includes our mediation program, small claims court or contacting a private attorney or the Better Business Bureau.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer!

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