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Homeowners Beware 10 Biggest Contractor Scams

House Painting Contractor Scams – In 2023, the wheels of justice were busy spinning against criminal house 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 house painting companies 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 by house painting contractors 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 big business. And for painting contractors, it is no different.  It’s easy money for a criminal contractor because they simply disappear once you lay down a hefty deposit, or do a poor job, pocket the rest and are never to be seen again.

The only defence against being scammed is YOU. It’s your responsibility to find a reputable and trustworthy property painting 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 painting contractor:

1. Lack of Proper Identification

A professional contractor is, well, a professional painter. They have business cards, valid contracts, proper identification, uniforms, an actual business address, appropriate insurance certificates, and a master business license. Be wary of all local house painters that lack 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? How can you accept them in your home as interior house painting contractors? This is a common red flag of a criminal who works in a neighbourhood and then disappears never to be seen again.

2. “I Was Just In the Neighborhood”

If a contractor for painting knocks on your door with this line: Watch out! They’ll usually say they have painting 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 house painting 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 it immediately.”  Reputable contractors, even if it’s urgent, will not pressure you with fear.

4. One Day Deal

Bad painting 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 honoured for up to 30 days.

If you are pressured to sign a contract immediately, that’s a red flag. You should be given ample time to review the contract and the job details before signing anything. A credible contractor will give you the time to review anything that needs to be signed.

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” quoting 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 Up-Front

A request for an unusually large amount of money before work starts is a big warning sign. A normal amount is 10-20% upfront.   Any more than that is unnecessary.   Don’t be fooled by excuses like, “We need to purchase painting 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 the painting contractor’s reputation and have a written contract should you hand over any money.

7. Will Not Provide References

Legitimate local painting contractors will always provide recent references because they have nothing to hide. Reputable contractors use their reviews to their advantage to gain new business. Some of the best painters in Toronto will be happy to provide you with references above and beyond the ones you can find online. If you feel inclined, you can also check out your Better Business Bureau for more information on any companies you might be interested in working with.

Plus, a happy client is good for business. If a house painting 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 painting contractor will put their reputation in writing. If they refuse, walk away

Not having a contract in place can be a red flag. Some contractors will provide a contract hoping that homeowners will just sign it and not read it. Contracts that are vague and open to interpretation can be used against you later. Reputable exterior house painters are honest about their work and don’t try to deceive their clients through shotty contracts and technicalities. They will ensure their clients feel totally comfortable, and they’re confident in their work, so they don’t have to scam people with contracts.

9. Cash Deals

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 fraudster will charge a lot of cash as an upfront fee before painting your home. Avoid dealing with people who constantly alter payment requirements. Dealing with them like those fraudsters will likely result in you paying for more than you agreed upon.

Furthermore, a painting contractor who works under the table won’t have liability insurance, no 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 lack of insurance coverage is among the most common red flags for professional painters that you should be aware of. A lot can go wrong during a home 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. 

Take note that not all states require painters to be registered. Thus, it is necessary to be aware of your residing state’s laws regarding licensure prior to signing any contracts.

Surviving Painting Scams: What to Do if You’re a Victim

Finding yourself on the wrong end of a contractor scam can feel both isolating and overwhelming. It’s a breach of trust that can leave you feeling vulnerable, but remember, you are not without options or allies. In this critical moment, your response can empower you to mitigate the impact and help prevent others from becoming victims. Let’s walk through the steps you should take if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation.

Step 1: Document Everything

First, gather all documentation related to the project—contracts, receipts, emails, text messages, and any photos you have of the work performed (or lack thereof). This evidence will be your cornerstone for all the steps that follow.

Step 2: Reach Out for a Resolution

Sometimes, what seems like a scam might be a miscommunication or a contractor in over their head. Before escalating the situation, reach out to the contractor to express your concerns and seek a resolution. Although this might not always lead to a satisfactory outcome, having a record of your attempt can strengthen your position later on.

Step 3: Report to Authorities

If your attempt to resolve the issue directly doesn’t lead to action, it’s time to involve external parties:

  • Local Police: If you believe you’ve been outright defrauded, filing a police report can be a necessary step for legal action.
  • Consumer Protection Offices: Many states have consumer protection offices that can offer guidance, mediate disputes, and sometimes take direct action against fraudulent contractors.
  • State Licensing Boards: For licensed contractors, reporting them to the state licensing board can trigger an investigation and potentially prevent them from hurting others.
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB): While the BBB cannot enforce action, filing a complaint can warn other potential customers and sometimes motivate businesses to resolve the issue.

Step 4: Consider Legal Action

Depending on the scale of your financial loss and the evidence at hand, you might consider taking legal action against the contractor. Consultation with a legal professional can give you insight into the strength of your case and the next steps. For smaller disputes, small claims court could be an efficient way to pursue recovery without needing extensive legal representation.

Step 5: Review and Report Online

Sharing your experience on online review platforms not only serves as a cathartic outlet but also aids in informing and protecting your community. While it’s crucial to stay factual and avoid defamation, your honest account can be a powerful tool in holding scammers accountable.

Step 6: Emotional Support

Do not underestimate the emotional toll such an experience can take. Seeking support from family, friends, or professionals can help you navigate this challenging time. Remember, being scammed does not reflect on your character or intelligence—it can happen to anyone.

Step 7: Learning and Moving Forward

Lastly, equip yourself with knowledge to avoid painting contractor scams in the future. Reflect on any red flags you might have missed and how you can safeguard your interests in future dealings. Resources and guides, like those provided by TakeOnTasks, are here to arm you with the confidence and clarity you need to navigate these challenges.

Falling victim to house painting contractor scams is a tough ordeal, but it doesn’t have to define your home renovation journey. With the right steps, you can rise above the situation, help protect others, and move forward with greater wisdom and resilience. You’re not just surviving; you’re learning, growing, and helping the community by shining a light on fraudulent practices. Let this be a stepping stone to a more informed and empowered you.

FREQUENTLY ASK QUESTIONS

HOW SOON CAN THE PAINT JOB BE STARTED?

When you’ve gotten free estimates and picked the perfect painting contractor for your project, it’s time to go to the next step. The contractor and the house owner should sign a contract and schedule a date to start the task. The contract ought to specify when the painters will begin work and a quote for how long it will take. After signing the contract, a start date can be expected within a couple of weeks.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO PAINT THE HOUSE EXTERIOR?

The time it will take to paint a house’s exterior varies depending on its size. However, for an average-size home will take approximately 3 to 4 days to paint with a group of 2 to 3 painting contractors. The average home specified in this scenario is a two-story house with less than four bedrooms. Meanwhile, a three-story house with more than five bedrooms will take 5 to 6 days.

HOW MUCH DO PAINTERS CHARGE PER HOUR IN TORONTO, ONTARIO?

Hiring professional painting services in Toronto, Ontario, per hour can range from $40 to $100. Depending on the services required, the type of paint and product, and whether you need exterior or interior, these costing ranges are subject to variations. For example, the painting service might charge extra expenses if additional coats are required for the project.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Despite all the warning signs, the best way to really protect yourself from becoming a victim is to hire a reputable painting contractor in Toronto and the GTA. A professional house painting contractor won’t pressure you into a sale and be able to provide all the checks above that a criminal will go to great lengths to hide.

Look for companies that have good reviews online. These days, almost every company has their own respective online presence. You must think twice if the contractor doesn’t have a website or any social media accounts. A credible painting contractor will have an online presence so prospective clients can learn more about them and their excellent prior projects.

Also, recommendations from friends and family are also an ideal way to get the best contractors available for the job. Remember to follow your gut also, we are all humans, after all, if the potential contractor is acting sketchy or you have a bad feeling, go for a different company.

Hire a Professional House Painting Contractor: Avoid Painting Quote Scams

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 36 years, with a list of over 10,000 satisfied clients, a proven track record shown by our A+ Rating with the Better Business Bureau, and one of the top-rated Toronto painting contractors on HomeStars.

In addition, we protect you with $5 million in General Liability Insurance, and full worker’s compensation, provide written painting quotes, and stand behind all our work with a Two two-year quality Guarantee…hence, even when the job is done, we will still be there for you.

If you’re thinking of doing some home interior and exterior painting but don’t want to do the work yourself, let our exterior painters help! Even if you are undecided, professional house painters can help you with any problems or questions you may have.

If the work sounds like it involves too much time and energy to do it yourself, call 416.494.9095 or email Brian@HomePaintersToronto.com for a FREE quote. And don’t forget to visit us on social media (below) as well!