Don’t get swept up by home repair scams this spring

Jene J. Long

April showers bring May flowers — along with a list of projects to tackle around the house. If your spring cleaning agenda includes minor or major home renovation plans, it’s likely you’ll require the services of a contractor to help your vision come to life. Whether updating your flooring, renovating your kitchen or building a pool or spa, it’s always important to hire licensed contractors who are in good standing with the Nevada State Contractors Board — and here’s why.

Hiring a licensed contractor allows you up to four years from the date work is performed to file a complaint with the board and have your concerns investigated. Such concerns may include, but not be limited to, poor workmanship, incomplete projects or failure to uphold the terms of a contract.

The board’s investigation includes a review of the contract terms, any work performed, and other factors that may be of importance to the complaint filed. Upon review of the evidence, the board may validate the complaint items, at which time, options for remedy may be ordered of the contractor. Homeowners may also find themselves eligible for financial remedy through the Residential Recovery Fund, if the contractor is unable to resolve the validated issues.

If an unlicensed contractor is hired and you become dissatisfied with the work performed, your options to remedy the damage are minimized. While you are still eligible to file a complaint with the board up to two years after the work was performed, validated cases cannot be resolved through a board investigation. When necessary, the board will issue an administrative citation to the unlicensed contractor and may forward such cases to the local district attorney’s office where criminal prosecution is sought.

Not all unlicensed contractors are out to scam trustworthy homeowners, but it can and does happen. To best protect yourself, take note of these warning signs and steer clear of inviting them into your home to perform work:

■ Door-to-door solicitors offering “free” home inspections and estimates.

■ Someone who has “extra materials” on hand and can begin work immediately, often at a discounted cost.

■ Requiring cash-only payments or checks payable to an individual instead of the company they are affiliated with.

■ Aggressive sales tactics creating an uncomfortable interaction.

■ Company information provided does not match the board’s license information.

Homeowners can combat these tactics and best ensure they hire a licensed contractor using the following recommendations:

■ Always ask for the contractor’s license number. This should be displayed on all contracts, bids, advertisements, company vehicles and on the contractor’s “pocket ID card.”

■ Verify the license number on the board’s website (nscb.nv.gov), mobile application, or by calling the board’s office (702-486-1100 or 775-688-1141).

■ Always verify the information provided on the board’s license search page matches the contact information provided on the company’s bid, contract or employee’s business card. If there are any discrepancies with an address, phone number or company name, contact the company phone number provided on the board’s license search page and verify the person offering to perform work is a current employee of the business and ensure the company is aware they are soliciting work at your home. This small step can help protect you from becoming victim to fraudulent schemes.

■ Try to obtain at least three bids for any service you need performed. This allows you to compare bids, identify what the industry standard might be and select the company that best meets your needs.

■ Remember the cheapest bid is not always the best. Take time to evaluate bids closely to determine if services or costs were removed when compared to other bids received. These could be added on during the project, or you may receive less than you were expecting.

■ Never pay in cash, and only make checks payable to the licensed company.

While some home repair projects require urgent action, most should be afforded the time to make an informed decision. Among all the tips and recommendations, never second guess your instincts. They usually guide you in the right direction.

Margi Grein is the executive officer of the Nevada State Contractors Board.

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