If you're considering remodeling or making repairs at your home, make sure you’re aware of your rights as a consumer. Investigate prospective contractors, get everything in writing, and follow these tips to help protect yourself from being defrauded:
- Seek bids from three companies to ensure you're paying a fair price and have found a contractor you can work with.
- Before signing a contract more than $1,000, the contractor is required to provide you with a pamphlet from the Illinois Attorney General titled, “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights." Make sure you receive and read this pamphlet. It contains valuable information for contracting work, and can also be found at www.ag.state.il.us/consumers.
- Look up contractor reviews across various websites. Consider searching the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Google for past complaints. Be wary of contractors with many negative reviews.
- Ensure that the contract has a total cost noted, a complete description of the work to be performed, and estimated start and completion dates. The contract should state that any charges outside of those in the contract must be authorized by you in advance.
- Be sure the contractor agrees that Village building permits will be pulled, and that work will be done in accordance with Village Code. The contractor or the homeowner can submit the permit application; negotiate who will submit and pay for the building permit. Payment for the project should be contingent upon an approved building inspection.
- Never sign a contract with blank spaces or sections that you do not understand.
- Confirm that the contractor is fully insured, and ask for a certificate of insurance indicating you as the additional insured.
- Maintain all paperwork related to your project, and take photos of the work site before, during and after the construction work, as a record.
- Do not sign a certificate of completion or make payment until the work is done to your satisfaction. When you do pay, it’s recommended to pay by credit card or check, and always get a receipt. It's not a good practice to pay for materials in advance or to pay for anything you're not already in possession of. Keep down payments as low as possible. For example, a 50% down payment exposes you to significant risks and a loss of leverage.
- Demand lien waivers from contractors, subcontractors and suppliers to confirm payment is received and any future lien rights to your property are waived.
For more information on consumer rights, or if you think you were defrauded by a contractor, bring your concerns to the Illinois Attorney General by calling (800) 386-5438 or by visiting www.ag.state.il.us/consumers.