Underwood issues consumer tips for New Yorkers impacted by flood damage to avoid scams when hiring contractors
Following flooding around Seneca Lake and throughout the Finger Lakes region, attorney general encourages consumers to stay vigilant when hiring help
In light of the Aug. 14, 2018, flooding around Seneca Lake and throughout the Finger Lakes region, which left many property owners with extensive damage, Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood released a list of tips for consumers to avoid being scammed.
As property owners begin to hire contractors to repair the damage, Underwood is reminding New Yorkers to be vigilant when selecting a contractor and to insist that all contracts contain terms and conditions required by law to protect them from unscrupulous contractors.
“New Yorkers across the Finger Lakes are grappling with the aftermath of these floods,” Underwood said. “It’s vital that New Yorkers proceed with caution when hiring contractors to repair the damages. When homeowners are pushed to hire contractors without signed documents, they run the risk of receiving much larger bills than expected or projects that are never started or completed.
“New York homeowners should know their rights and contractors must obey the law. My office will continue to ensure that unscrupulous contractors are held accountable.”
New York state law requires that every home improvement contractor, before beginning work, must provide the consumer with a written contract to be signed by both parties that sets out certain specific information and disclosures. For example, the contract must:
- Provide proposed start and completion dates;
- Describe with particularity the work to be done;
- Include materials to be provided; and
- Give notice that the consumer has an unconditional three-day right to cancel the contract without penalty.
In addition, the law requires that any advance deposits taken by the contractor must be placed into an account at a banking institution separate from the contractor’s other funds. The contractor must notify the consumer of the banking institution at which the deposit is kept.
Consumers should take the following precautions when hiring home improvement contractors:
- Be specific about what work you want done.
- Educate yourself about the required permits – don’t rely solely on the contractor.
- Shop around.
- Get references and check them.
- Get proof of insurance from the contractor.
- Check licenses (if required).
- Never pay the full price up front.
- Always put work to be done in writing, including all add-ons.
- Know where your payments are going.
- Never do business with a contractor who is unwilling to abide by any of the conditions above.
If consumers feel they have been victimized, they are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 1.800.771.7755 or call one of the following regional offices:
- Buffalo Regional Office: 716.853.8404
- Rochester Regional Office: 585.327.3240
- Syracuse Regional Office: 315.448.4848