COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - Following the violent weather in Ohio this weekend, Attorney General Mike DeWine is offering a warning to residents to beware of traveling contractors who try to take advantage of homeowners in need of assistance.
"The aftermath of the storms we recently experienced in Ohio has been devastating," Attorney General DeWine said. "But by working together we will get through this. Members of my office are available for local officials to assess the situation and determine how we can help. As repairs continue, please watch out for fly-by-night contractors trying to scam money out of this difficult situation."
After disaster strikes, traveling contractors may come into a community to try to take money for services that they do not provide and make promises that they do not keep. Ohio Attorney General representatives can discuss with local officials the Office's Contractor Registration Program, which is designed to help protect affected communities from contractors who try to take advantage of them. If a community chooses to implement the program, the community would pass an emergency ordinance requiring contractors to register before doing work in the affected area. The Ohio Attorney General's Office would assist with the registration process and verify information provided on contractor applications.
Attorney General DeWine offers the following tips for homeowners who are looking for contractors and/or other repair or removal services:
- Research the 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. Check out consumer complaints with the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.
- Be cautious. Do not accept services from any contractor who refuses to provide proper identification, does not have a permanent place of business, cannot provide references, or insists on a large payment before work begins.
- Get written estimates. Do some shopping and get estimates from more than one contractor. Refuse to do business with a company that does not provide a written estimate.
- 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 protect you from liens which may be placed on your property if the contractor fails to pay all suppliers and subcontractors.
- Never 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.
- Be wary of a demand for a large down payment (more than one third of the total cost) and/or the use high-pressure sales tactics
- Be cautious of people who knock on your door and want to do the work immediately. Businesses who solicit you at your home are required to give a three day right to cancel and should not begin the work before the three days. Consumers may waive this right.
If your vehicle was damaged in the storm, contact your insurance company to determine what your plan covers. If you take your vehicle to a repair shop, you have the right to a verbal or written estimate if the anticipated cost of the repair or service is more than $25. In general, if the cost will be more than 10 percent of the original estimate, the shop must get your approval for the additional costs.
Ohioans 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.