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I am getting ready to do some repairs to my home. Do you have any tips?

Considerations for selecting a contractor, mechanic or repairman.

1. Homeowners should be especially careful when having work done to their home:
a. If damage is caused by a Kansas storm, homeowners are very anxious to have repairs done as soon as possible. Such storms attract con artists who go door-to-door offering immediate repair services and promising to do the work at a very attractive price;
b. The added demand for repair work may make it difficult for consumers to obtain repairs from established local contractors and this results in homeowners being especially vulnerable to home-repair rip-offs;
c. Be leery of a contractor who comes door to door looking for work, offers you discounts for finding other customers, pressures you for an immediate decision, drives an unmarked vehicle or has out of state plates, or asks you to pay upfront.

2. Repair or remodeling projects should be carefully planned. Homeowners should talk with contractors about their plans, the costs involved and the expectations for the completed job. This can be a challenging experience as workers invade your home in order to complete the project.

3. Find out from the appropriate building code enforcement office what permits and inspections are required for the work being done. Avoid a contractor who wants you to secure the permit or permits.

4. Homeowners should remember the following:
a. Only deal with contractors who have an established area business.
b. Out-of-state contractors may not complete the work and any warranties may be worthless if they are no longer in the area when defects are uncovered later by the homeowner.
c. Be especially cautious if one of the bids is much lower than the others.
d. Obtain at least three bids on any major repair or remodeling project and check several references to help decrease the likelihood the contractor does substandard work.
e. Check the Better Business Bureau website for complaints.  www.bbb.org.
f. If you are hiring a roofer, check the Kansas Attorney General Website, www.InYourCornerKansas.org, to see if the roofer is registered with the State of Kansas.
g. Check the Secretary of State website to make sure that the business meets Kansas registration requirements.  www.e-secretaryofstate.com.

5. Make sure your contractor, mechanic or repairman is insured. Ask to see current proof of insurance certificates. Ask for proof of the contractor's liability and worker's compensation insurance to help protect you as a property owner against any claim in the event someone is injured while the work is being done on your property and confirm that the policies are current by calling the insurance agent. 

6. Make certain that all important details concerning the work are written into the bid and contract. Insist on a written contract that states exactly what work will be done, including but not limited to the following:
a. the type and quality of materials that will be used;
b. warranties - all express or implied warranties on the materials and labor;
c. timetables - the dates the work will begin and is expected to be completed;
d. the names of any subcontractors;
e. the total price of the job, and the schedule of payments;
f. the total cost of work:
 i. How and when payments will be made;
ii. 10% down payment is a good place to start.  Beware of a business requiring a down payment of more than 25% or more than 25% prior to satisfactory completion of the work for smaller jobs.
iii.You should always consider hiring an attorney, engineer, architect or other relevant expert to assist you throughout your project.

7. Don’t make a final payment or sign a final release until you are satisfied with the work and have proof that the subcontractors have been paid. At the first sign of even a small problem contact an attorney and other relevant expert.

8. Evaluate whether it is best for you to pay the contractor with a check or credit card. Paying with a credit card instead of check may give you additional protections.  Check your credit card bank or company about these protections, so you understand the options and process in the event a contractor fails to deliver.

9. Know your rights.  If you get “buyer’s remorse”, you might be able to change your mind.  In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission has a three day cooling off period for door-to-door purchases.  www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro03.shtm.

10. If you believe you have been a victim of a crime, please report it to the appropriate law enforcement agency.  If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud please report it to this Office, 785-330-2849. If you are not a victim and believe a business is engaged in fraudulent business practices, please report it to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

a. Douglas County Sheriff’s Office – 785-841-0007
b. Lawrence Police Department – 785-832-7509
c. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – 1877-382-4357
d. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx
e. Douglas County District Attorney’s Office (DA) – 785-330-2849
f. Kansas Attorney General (AG) - 1-800-432-2310

These practices will not guarantee your project will not have problems, but they might reduce the likelihood.