Oregon Construction Contractors Board – 06/22/23 8:30 AM
Home improvement scams are most prevalent in summertime, and consumers should be on the lookout for the warning signs of a scam. Many home improvement scams start with a door-to-door solicitor who offers to sell home improvement services and requests access to your house. “They may want to see your roof or crawl space. Or, they may show you leftover paving materials and ask to re-pave your driveway at a discounted rate. That’s a red flag,” says Vena Swanson, Enforcement Manager at Construction Contractors Board (CCB). Ms. Swanson also recommends not to let strangers into your house or take pictures of your home without your permission.
Many home improvement scams follow a formula, and can be identified by tell-tale signs:
- Door-to-door solicitors often ask for access to the house (roof, attic, crawl space, etc), then offer to make immediate repairs
- They may show the homeowner pictures of damage after gaining access to the house
- They may say they have leftover materials from a previous job, allowing them to do the work for a very low cost
- Solicitors (door-to-door or phone) often offer limited time deals and/or in-house financing
Do Your Homework Before Hiring a Contractor
“As always, it’s important to check the license,” says Ms. Swanson. The CCB’s license search feature allows homeowners to verify a contractor’s license is active. They can also look up 10 years of history on any contractor’s license, including complaints and disciplinary actions. Once the homeowner has reviewed the contractor’s license history, they can make an informed decision about that contractor.
The CCB also recommends:
- Get a contract. Contracts are required for jobs over $2,000, but CCB recommends getting a contract for jobs of all prices.
- Check references. “Ask lots of questions,” recommends Ms. Swanson. “When you put it into the context of inviting someone to do work in your home – you’re inviting strangers into your safe space. By checking references, you come to know other people’s firsthand experience.”
- Vet multiple contractors. Research at least three contractors for large home improvement projects. Meeting with multiple contractors puts the job into perspective by allowing you to compare prices, timelines and more.
Consumers Agree, Checking the License Is Important
A recent survey showed that 95% of Oregon homeowners agree it’s important to hire a licensed contractor. Hiring a licensed contractor gives consumers access to protections, such as CCB’s mediation services. Licensed contractors also carry a bond and insurance that provide additional protection when home improvement projects go wrong.
Hiring an unlicensed contractor leaves homeowners with few options when problems arise. Disputes between homeowners and unlicensed contractors can be settled in court, but many homeowners simply give up and accept the cost of repairing the damage themselves.
How to Check the License
To verify the contractor has an active license:
- Visit www.oregon.gov/ccb
- Click on the link at the top of the page that says “contractor search,” or click on the orange “search here” button in the middle of the page
- Enter the license number or name, then click the “search” button
- Verify that the license is active. Click into the record to see that the contractor carries the endorsement for residential work, and that the name and other information on the license matches the contractor you are considering.
Want help searching or understanding the results? Call CCB at 503-378-4621.
“If you didn’t take the time to plan a project properly, don’t do it,” reminds Ms. Swanson. “No matter how convincing or how tempting a home improvement may sound, if you don’t have the planning done and the money set aside, don’t do it. Your home is likely the biggest investment of your life, don’t hesitate to protect it.”
About the CCB
The CCB is the state agency licensing over 42,000 contractors. Virtually anyone who is paid to repair, improve or build a home must be licensed. Learn more about how to have a successful project at www.oregon.gov/ccb.