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Buyer Beware: As Home Improvement Projects Loom, So Do Contractor Scams

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Buyer beware…

This weekend's wintery weather aside, as spring gets here, home improvement projects rise on the to-do list.

That also means those looking to rip you off know that, too. A lot of money can be on the line when it comes to hiring a contractor.

When spring arrives, so do the complaints about home contractors to the Better Business Bureau.

So, when it comes to home improvement work, being trusting can be costly.

"There are always those, unfortunately, bad actors out there that make it difficult, the work is either never performed or it's never completed," said Caitlin Driscoll of the Better Business Bureau.

Driscoll said to be on the lookout for contractors that knock on your door and offer you a great one-day-only deal, something they've seen an increase of.

"Any high-pressure tactics that they might be used any limited time offers, it's a red flag," she said. "If someone is claiming that they've just done work down the street and have leftover materials from a neighbor job so they can offer you this great discount on the spot."

The BBB recommends in this situation to ask for the contractor's business license and proof of insurance. From there, look them up on the BBB website and Google.

"Do an online search and see what comes up what additional information before you make any kind of payment or sign a contract," Driscoll said.

She also recommends asking friends, family, and neighbors for referrals and then comparing those referrals to what you find online.

"The reason for that rating any complaint history over the past three years with that business," she continued.

Driscoll recommends getting at least three estimates on any work and a reputable contractor will understand that process.

WATCH: Avoiding Contract Scams

Upgrading a home can be expensive, whether it's a contractor making major changes or simply a landscaping company cutting your grass, protecting your wallet is paramount.

Whether the job is large or small, the biggest mistake is consistency.

"The big issue tends to be someone not getting something in writing not getting a written contract," Driscoll said.

That contract needs to cover everything, including the costs and the upfront payment, never the full amount.

"It's actually illegal for them to ask that of you," Driscoll explained. "The law does actually state for a contract that's over $5,000, the contract can't accept a deposit in excess of one-third of that price."

She also recommends getting the cost of any special materials, how long the job is going to take, and if there could be any delays should it be a longer-term project.

That all may sound obvious, but Driscoll said so many people don't get basic contact information which can be critical.

"Getting in touch with the business contacting the contractor after the fact when there's an issue as well as obtaining those monetary refunds," she said.

If you enter a contract and the work is not completed or substantially started within 45 days, Pennsylvania says you can request, in writing, a full refund.

Driscoll said the contract has to pay within 10 days of receiving the letter.

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