Homeowners Beware – 10 Biggest Contractor Scams in 2011-12
In 2011, the wheels of justice were busy spinning against criminal renovation contractors (including painting contractors).
Under the Consumer Protection Act, the Ministry of Consumer Services laid 823 charges against home renovation contractors in Ontario (Toronto and the GTA for the most part). This amounted to over $421,000 in fines being issued, 33 individuals were sentenced to jail or probation, and over $377,000 were paid out in restitution to scammed victims.
As staggering as these statistics are, the actual true number of homeowners who were scammed is much higher as most people bite the loss and don’t even report it. Plus these stats only reflect claims that actually resulted in full prosecution.
The scary reality is: Scamming is a big business. And for painting contractors it’s no different. It’s easy money for a criminal contractor because they simply disappear once you lay down a hefty deposit, or they do a poor job, pocket the rest, and are never to be seen again.
The only defense against being scammed is YOU. It’s your responsibility to find a reputable and trustworthy contractor. Luckily for you, scammers leave a trail of red flags that mark their criminal intentions. Here are the top 10 warning signs of a criminal contractor:
1. Lack of Proper Identification
A professional contractor is, well, professional. They have business cards, valid contracts, proper identification, uniforms, an actual business address, appropriate insurance certificates, and a master business license. Be wary of any contractor that lacks these qualities. If you don’t know exactly who they are, how can you verify their reputation? How can you find them if something goes wrong in the future? This is a common red flag of a criminal who works a neighborhood then disappears never to be seen again.
2. “I Was Just In the Neighborhood”
If a contractor knocks on your door with this line, watch out! They’ll usually say they have materials left over from another job and are willing to give you a great discount on some work they say your home needs. Professional contractors/painters only purchase what they need for each job. Even if you do need work soon, it should be assessed on its own anyway.
3. Scare Tactics
If a contractor tries to scare you into spending your money, walk away. They’ll usually come up with some story like, “The paint on your outside is so old that your walls will rot and will need replacing if you don’t fix them immediately.” Reputable contractors, even if it’s urgent, will not use fear to pressure you.
4. One Day Deal
Bad contractors will pressure you into a sale by saying their quote is only good if you sign right away. This is done to prevent you from shopping around. If a contractor is legitimate and stands behind their business, their price will be honored up to 30 days.
5. Big Job – Fast Quote
A large renovation project requires a thorough inspection to come to an accurate and detailed estimate. A scammer will glance around quickly and come up with an “attractive” price verbally or on a scrap piece of paper. Their intention is to convince you and secure a deposit, which you may never see again.
6. Large Cash Deposits Upfront
A request for an unusually large amount of money before work starts is a big warning sign. A normal amount is 10-20% up front. Any more than that is unnecessary. Don’t be fooled by excuses like, “We need to purchase materials first.” Chances are that will be the last you ever see of them. However, if your project is large, then deposits can also be common. But only after you have verified their reputation and have a written contract should you hand over any money.
7. Will Not Provide References
Legitimate contractors will always provide recent references because they have nothing to hide. Plus a happy client is good for business. If a contractor says they don’t reveal past customers due to “privacy” it’s because they have something dirty to hide.
8. No Written Guarantee
A contractor’s word is not a guarantee. No matter how much they promise to stand behind their work, demand a contract and guarantee on paper. Every professional contractor will put their reputation in writing. If they refuse, walk away.
“I’ll give you a great deal if you pay cash.” As I detailed in my blog, Beware of Unlicensed Painting Contractors, cash deals, while cheap, come at a high price. A contractor who works under the table won’t have liability insurance, won’t have a license, is not paying taxes, and will provide no contract or written guarantee. When a problem occurs you’ll be left out in the expensive cold.
10. Won’t Show You Insurance
A lot can go wrong during a renovation. Property can be damaged and people can get hurt. That’s why professionals carry and proudly display their General Liability Insurance and Workplace Compensation coverage. Any excuse or refusal to disclose insurance coverage is a clear red flag.
Despite all the warning signs, the best way to really protect yourself from becoming a victim is to hire a reputable painting contractor. A professional house painting contractor won’t pressure you into a sale and will be able to provide all the checks above that a criminal will go to great lengths to hide.
With all the worry and concern over renovation contractors, Home Painters Toronto has made earning your trust our #1 priority.
We’ve been in business for over 25 years and have a list of over 10,000 satisfied clients, a proven track record shown with our A+ Rating with the Better Business Bureau, and are one of the top rated painters on HomeStars.com
In addition, we protect you with $5 million in General Liability Insurance, full workers compensation, provide written quotes, and the confidence to stand behind all our work with a Two Year Quality Guarantee. As a result, even when the job is done we will still be there for you.
So call 416.494.9095 or email us at Brian@HomePaintersToronto.com to schedule a no-obligation, FREE in-home consultation. With Home Painters, your only worry will be how many rooms you want us to paint.