In the aftermath of the Texas winter storm, which resulted in more snow than the state has seen since 1968, many Texans are desperately seeking help for the physical damage their homes have sustained. While this disaster has brought many communities together, it has also opened the doors to inevitable scams, like price gouging or home repair fraud.
Scammers rely on people who don’t know their rights, so it’s important to educate yourself before agreeing to anything.
How can you avoid home repair fraud?
Get several bids
- Much like you might after a doctor’s consultation, it’s helpful to check out multiple resources. Get written bids or estimates from at least three different contractors.
Get the contractor’s contact information: full name, address, and phone number.
- Ask for references and call them.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau and courthouse for criminal history and civil cases against the contractor.
- For repairs that cost more than $10,000, ask the contractor for a copy of their Certificate of Registration with the Texas Residential Construction Commission.
- If you notice your contractor has out-of-state license plates, be especially careful to get everything in writing.
Get a written contract
- This contract should specify the work to be done and the total price for said work.
- Do not sign anything you don’t understand.
Control the money
- Do not pay for the entire job up front. Try to pay as little as possible up front. This will allow you to ensure that the contractor doesn’t rush your job and that you pay for the quality of the work you receive. Insist on paying the full amount until after the work is finished.
- Do not make the final payment until you have inspected the work. Make sure you are satisfied with all the repairs and if not, do not hesitate to take your concerns to the contractor(s).
- Do not pay in cash. Ask for a copy of your receipts so that you have a paper or electronic trail of all payments.
- It is against the law for contractors in disaster areas to take any money unless they have a local office in your county or one county over for at least one year.
- Special rules protect you if the contractor does not have a local office in your county or the next county over.
If your contractor refuses to comply with any of the following steps and proves to be suspicious, you can report them to the Better Business Bureau, the Texas Attorney General, the local district attorney, and Lone Star Legal Aid at 1-866-659-0666.
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.
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