Don't Be A Victim Twice - Be A Wise Consumer

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Release date: 
October 4, 1999
Release Number: 
1297-16

NEW CASTLE, Del. -- As people rebuild from flooding and wind-driven rain caused by Hurricane Floyd, many storm victims will seek contractors to help in the process. Most contractors are reputable, hard working individuals. Some people, however, try to take advantage of urgent repair needs in the wake of a disaster. Do not be a victim twice.

"Be especially alert for door-to-door solicitors who hand out make-shift flyers and ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full," Sean Mulhern, Gov. Thomas Carper's authorized representative, said.

"As always, if the offer seems too good to be true," said Federal Cordinating Officer Steven Adukaitis, "it probably is." Adukaitis and Mulhern recommended the following before hiring a contractor:

Look first to licensed local contractors who have performed well in the past. If they cannot help you, ask them to recommend a reputable contractor. Some building departments and trade associations keep lists of contractors who work in the community. If you must hire someone whom you do not know, talk to several contractors before signing anything.

In order to protect yourself from contractor fraud, Attorney General M. Jane Brady and the Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General's Office offer the following information:

  • What kind of things should consumers consider in finding a contractor for a home improvement job? When seeking a contractor for a home improvement job, you should get an estimate from at least three reputable contractors. You may wish to contact the Better Business Bureau for information on the contractors from whom you want to receive bids. Ask the bidding contractors to supply the names and phone numbers of customers for whom they have done similar work. Contact the previous customers for information. Make sure that the contractor that you select is licensed and insured.

  • What types of payment arrangements are best when contracting for home improvement work? When structuring a payment schedule with a contractor, never make a full payment up front. You should always insist on a receipt for any payment that you make to a contractor. You should also be aware that most reputable contractors will accept payments based upon the percentage of work completed.

  • Should an agreement for home improvement work be made in writing? Yes. Most reputable contractors will enter into a written agreement outlining the rights and responsibilities of each party, the work to be done and the payment schedule. If a contractor refuses to enter into a written agreement and a problem occurs, you may have no legal remedy.

  • Are there any types of home improvement contractors who have bad reputations? Yes. If you are approached by a "traveling" contractor who makes a home improvement offer that is too good to be true, be very careful. In many cases, these individuals are not licensed or insured. Also, many times they take a large cash payment up front without entering into a written contract and never return to complete the work. If they complete the work, it is often of poor quality and sometimes the materials and chemicals used by these people do more harm than good.

  • Do reputable contractors solicit door-to-door? Most reputable contractors do not solicit door to door. However, in Delaware, when you enter into a contract with a door-to-door solicitor, including a door-to-door contractor, the law requires that you be given 72 hours to cancel a contract that involves $25 or more.

  • What should I do if a contractor starts a project and does not return to complete it? If a contractor starts a project but does not return to complete it, you should immediately alert the Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General's Office. An in...
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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