Following the recent storms, Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning Ohioans to watch for traveling contractors who may try to take advantage of homeowners in need of assistance.
"After severe weather hits, it's important to be vigilant about home improvement scams," DeWine said. "Some contractors track storms so that they can travel to affected communities to offer their services to homeowners who experience damage. Unfortunately many of these 'storm-chasers' do not follow Ohio laws and do nothing to help consumers."
Consumers who experienced damage, such as fallen trees or wind-damaged buildings, should take the following steps to protect themselves:
* Research a home improvement contractor before signing any contract. Obtain the name, address, and phone number of any contractor agreeing to do work for you. Ask for identification from the company's representative. Request and contact references. Check for consumer complaints with the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau before allowing a contractor to begin the work.
* Be cautious. Do not accept services from a contractor who refuses to provide proper identification, does not have a permanent place of business, cannot provide references, or insists on a large upfront payment, such as half or more of the total cost.
* Get written estimates from at least three different contractors. Refuse to do business with a company that does not provide a written estimate.
* Keep in mind that you generally have three business days to cancel door-to-door sales. A business must notify you of this right and cannot begin services until after the three-day period has ended.
* Don't sign over your insurance check to a contractor. If you are financing the transaction, arrange for a certificate of completion with your bank. The bank will pay the contractor for each completed stage of the job only after you give your permission.
* Get a sworn statement. Insist that the contractor provide you with a sworn statement that all materials have been paid for and all subcontractors have been paid. This will help protect you from liens that may be placed on your property if the contractor fails to pay all suppliers and subcontractors.
Consumers who have questions about a contractor or those who believe they have been treated unfairly should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or (800) 282-0515.