Unlicensed contractor and handyman services across state often a prelude to home improvement fraud
Every year, home improvement scams are among the top 10 consumer issues in Arkansas. When contemplating improvements to your home, here are some things to consider:
Any contractor building, repairing or doing improvements to a home costing more than $2,000 is required to be bonded and licensed by the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board.
A spokesperson for the state Licensing Board for handymen and contractors said on Friday that unlicensed repairs for more than that amount are a major problem in the state.
For example, a Fort Smith "handyman" service was sanctioned in March for doing work on a project that was over $10,000 in value when the company was unlicensed and unbonded.
The fine amount for the 11 days it took to complete the project was $4400 ($400 per day X 11 days). As part of that sanction, the company is forbidden from doing any project valued at over $2000 until they pay the fine. As of Friday, the fine had not been paid and the "contractor" has changed address and can't be located.
"That's not unusual, " said the spokesperson. "We have literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid fines, and these outlaw contractors will just print up some new business cards, change their address and go right back to defrauding the public."
The spokesperson said, as was the case with the Fort Smith handyman, the majority of the cases in which someone is dinged for no license comes after a complaint is filed for shoddy and substandard work.
"Some of these people are professional scammers", said the spokesperson. "Time and time again you will find they have a criminal background and have used similar tactics in other ventures,
Contact the board at (501) 372-4661 to verify a contractor’s license, the date it was issued, and whether any complaints have been filed against that contractor. Ask for recommendations from people you trust.
Have a written and signed contract before any work begins on your home or property. Specifically, make sure the following information is contained in the contract:
Your name. The name, address and telephone number of the builder or contractor.
A complete and detailed description of the work to be done and the materials to be used, including the grade, quality and quantity.
A provision requiring your written approval before any price increases are implemented or before the scope of work is expanded.
A statement that explains the builder’s or contractor’s guarantee on the work to be performed.
A starting date and, more importantly, a completion date.
A complete description of the cost of the job, full disclosure of the payment terms and the financing costs, if any.
Your signature and the contractor’s signature.
Use caution in hiring:
Think twice before hiring out-of-town or unknown contractors, especially those soliciting door-to-door.
Question contractors who use terms like “special introductory offer,” “limited-time offer” or those who offer discounts to use your house as a “model home.”
Do not fall for high-pressure tactics from contractors who want to discuss the price of the job later.
Beware of those demanding a full payment before work is finished.
Scammers frequently target distressed homeowners and charge fees. Read more on foreclosure rescue and loan modification scams.
If you believe you have been scammed by an unscrupulous contractor you should report these encounters to the Attorney General's office online at www.ArkansasAG.gov, by emailing OAG@ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.