In this article, we discuss Iowa home repair fraud and answer the following questions:
- What Are Some Warnings Signs of Fraudulent Contractors In Iowa?
- How Can I Protect Myself From Fraudulent Contractors In Iowa?
- How Do I Get Out Of A Home Repair Contract In Iowa?
- What Should I Do If I’ve Been The Victim Of Home Repair Fraud In Iowa?
Finding the right contractor is like picking the perfect paint color. The homeowner spends time, money, and effort to make sure they’ve got it right. But sometimes that’s not enough. And the only thing worse than starting a project over is losing money on a project that barely began in the first place! Unfortunately, home repair fraud is one of the top consumer fraud complaints filed with the Iowa Attorney General’s office. However, consumers can protect themselves by being aware of the telltale signs of a fraudulent contractor.
What Are Some Warning Signs of Fraudulent Contractors In Iowa?
- Door-to-door salespeople offering services at “massive” discounts well below market value, but only if you “act now!”
- Companies listing only a telephone number and P.O. Box, especially if they are out of state
- Contractors who offer free full home inspections and then list a bevy of issues that “must be repaired”
- Has multiple negative reviews on websites such as the Better Business Bureau
- Demands cash upfront, especially if the contractor asks for payment in full before starting
- Request a check be made out to someone other than the company or the owner
How Can I Protect Myself From Fraudulent Contractors In Iowa?
Beyond being aware of the warning signs, consumers should perform their due diligence and take steps to protect themselves, such as:
- Always request references
- Don’t go with the first contractor you speak with, even if the price is terrific. Getting multiple bids and estimates is one of the best ways to see if a contractor is way off from the normal market value for a job
- Check www.iowacourts.state.ia.us to see if the contractor has been sued in the past
- Always ask the contractor for a copy of his or her liability insurance certificate
- Make no payments until you receive a contract
- Read any contract thoroughly and don’t sign a contract with blank spaces
- If you don’t understand part of a contract ask the contractor for clarification. If his answer is ambiguous or confusing be wary of moving forward
- Check with the secretary of state’s office to see if the business is a good standing
- Make sure the contract has a start and finish date and stipulates what must happen if those dates are not met
- Make sure the contractor agrees that full payment will not be received until the job is finished. It is normal for contractors to ask for three payments split across the start of a project to buy materials, middle of the way through the project, and at the end of the project
- Check what, if any, type of guarantee the contractor gives on his work
- Request lien waivers for all subcontractors or include an agreement in the contract stating that all subcontractors have been paid or will be paid for their work by the contractor and cannot take a lien out against your home for unpaid work
How Do I Get Out Of A Home Repair Contract In Iowa?
If you signed a contract for home repairs, your ability to get out of the contract is mostly determined by timing and the specific language of the contract. According to the FTC’s “three-day rule,” if it’s been three days or less and the project has not started, you should be able to break the contract with no concerns for legal repercussions. Even if the project has started, you should still be able to terminate the agreement within three days. However, the method by which you can legally break the contract may differ from a simple e-mail or phone call to providing written notice to the contractor. If it’s beyond the three day grace period or the work has already started, you should reference the contract for information on how to get out of the agreement.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been The Victim Of Home Repair Fraud In Iowa?
If you’ve signed a contract, then it becomes a civil issue and the local police won’t get involved. Speaking to an attorney is always a good first step. He or she can let you know if you have a strong enough case to warrant legal action. You should also file a complaint with the Iowa Attorney General at consumer.ag.iowa.gov or 515-281-5926. If you have any questions about Iowa home repair fraud, give us a call at 563-503-6910.