How it works:
There are a variety of home improvement or contractor scams that target Darien residents. In some cases, the victim may never even know that they have been scammed. Here are some of the most common frauds:
Chimney Scams – Fall is a popular season for homeowners to get their chimneys cleaned. Unfortunately, this industry is filled with unscrupulous contractors. Beware of companies offering a free or low cost inspection and/or cleaning. Once they have access to your chimney, disreputable contractors may intentionally damage the chimney lining or provide false information about its condition. What started out as a free inspection can quickly turn into an overpriced repair costing thousands of dollars.
Leftover Material Scams – This scam is popular in the summertime, but can happen year-round due to the itinerate lifestyle associated with “gypsy” contractors. This con is commonly associated with driveway paving or sealing, but could also be used in painting or roofing scams. Contractors will go door-to-door claiming that they have just finished a big project, but have leftover materials. The homeowner believes that they are getting a deal, but the repair work is often shoddy or inferior materials are used. In some cases, the workers negotiate a cash deal, but never return with the materials as promised.
Unlicensed Contractors – Most home improvement contractors and those who sell or negotiate home improvement contracts must be licensed by the State of Connecticut. Despite an abundance of consumer protection laws, many companies operate without proper licensure or insurance. Unscrupulous home improvement contractors may solicit work via fax or telephone; this is especially true of contractors who travel to Darien from other counties or states. In many instances, these companies will collect payment without a written contract (as required by law). The contractor may not complete the project to the customer’s satisfaction, or simply fail to show up as scheduled. In other instances, customers are overcharged for inferior work, but feel like they have no recourse because a contract was not drawn up in advance. Many of these disputes are civil in nature, but may become criminal if it can be shown that the contractor intended to defraud the homeowner.
What to do:
Do not do business with contractors soliciting business door-to-door, over the telephone, or via fax. Reputable companies operate largely by word of mouth or traditional print advertising.
make certain that any home improvement contractor working on your property has proper insurance and is currently licensed by the State of Connecticut. Consumers should be aware that simply having a license or insurance number does not mean that it is valid. To check the status of a license, visit https://www.elicense.ct.gov/
Do obtain a written contract that includes the following:
The contractor’s name, address, and Connecticut Home Improvement
The date of the transaction, plus both a start and end date for the work;
Signatures for both the customer and the contractor or registered salesperson; and
A notice of the Buyer’s Right to Cancel within 3 Business Days (Saturday is a legal business day in Connecticut).
Do call the police if you have been victimized by a home improvement scam. Victims may feel shame or embarrassment after being scammed, but an arrest may result in financial restitution.
consider checking for any adverse litigation history against a contractor before entering into a contractual agreement for significant repairs or home improvements. This search can be done on the Connecticut Judicial Branch website at http://www.jud.ct.gov/jud2.htm