Elder Abuse Prevention: Home Repair Fraud
Seniors, especially those who live alone, are prime targets for home repair rip-offs. Some so-called repair contractors, particularly those who operate from door-to-door, may charge prices that are unfair and unreasonable. Some con artists propose offers that sound too good to be true, but they use inferior materials or they don’t do the job at all.
In some cases, con artists pose as inspectors, city officials or police and use scare tactics to force you to have unnecessary repairs made on your furnace, chimney, water heater or the electrical wiring in your home. Fraudulent operators may even damage these and other areas of your home, and then they try to sell you repairs. Some phony repairmen might also pretend they are inspecting an area inside of your home, when actually they are busy robbing you of cash or other valuables.
If you or a family member think you have been defrauded by a contractor, call the Attorney General’s office. While this office will not be able to represent you directly, it is possible in some circumstances that a settlement can be negotiated or restitution obtained. The Attorney General’s office will also be in a position to protect other Illinois citizens who may be targets of the dishonest contractor.
Indicators of Home Repair Fraud:
A salesperson, with no local connections, comes to a senior’s door and offers to do home repair work for substantially less than market price.
A salesperson comes to a senior’s door saying the senior needs siding, storm windows, or other home improvement. The salesperson also wants the senior to sign a contract on the spot. The signing of this type of contract may mean hidden finance charges or a lien placed on the home.
A worker comes to a senior’s door and tells the senior that his/her roof (driveway, chimney or furnace) has a problem. He claims he has extra material from a job and can do this job at cost. If the work ends up getting done at all, it will probably be incomplete, poorly done or overpriced.
A contractor comes to a senior’s home and offers to inspect the home for free. There is probably a catch to this offer.
A contractor comes to a senior’s home and has a business card which doesn’t include an address.
A contractor who insists on a cash deposit or full payment.
A contractor who offers to drive the senior to the bank to withdraw funds to pay for the work.
Avoiding Home Repair Fraud:
Never let a door-to-door sales or repair person inspect any part of your property. Ask for identification and phone their office to verify who they are.
Make sure your home really needs repairs.
Get at least 3 estimates in writing.
Get a list of references and check them out.
Don’t contract to have the work done immediately.
Do not sign a contract that has blanks. Have a friend, relative or attorney look over the contract.
Do not sign a completion certificate until the work is complete.
Do not make final payment unless you are satisfied with the work and the contractor has paid all sub-contractors. Get lien waivers.
By law, you may cancel any contract and get a full refund any time in the first 3 days.
(This applies only to unsolicited contractors who convince you to have certain jobs done.)