Watch Out for Home Repair Scams, City Officials Warn

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The following information was provided by the City of Watertown:

A busy home repair season is once again upon the City of Watertown. And with that comes the return of predatory home repair contractor practices.

There can be various approaches – a knock on the door unannounced and an offer of cheap services or perhaps information that your home is in dangerous disrepair and needs work done right away. Or they may let you know that they have just finished a job in the area and have extra materials and will happily do a quick project for you. 

They will emphasize that they must start immediately and will sort everything out later. And they will want a deposit – frequently, a sizable deposit.

A frequent tactic is to get started on a small job, and then inform the homeowner that a serious condition exists and requires a much more extensive repair – usually a very expensive repair!

There are numerous things that a homeowner can do in this situation.

• Do NOT let anyone start a project on your house unless you are familiar with them through their work or a recommendation OR you have a detailed, signed contract with the home repair company. 

• Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured.  Ask to see licenses and proof of insurance. A contractor should have liability insurance, and if they have employees, should also have Worker’s Compensation insurance. 

• Make sure the contractor is registered with the State of Massachusetts as a Home Improvement Contractor (HIC). This is a consumer protection program there to help homeowners. (More info below)

• Get estimates in writing on the cost of the job from at least 2 contractors. Be suspicious of estimates that are unusually low. After receiving estimates, have a detailed, signed contract for the work. Projects over $1,000 are required by law to have a written contract.

• Contracts should specifically indicate project timeframe with payment schedules. Any deposit required to be paid in advance of the start of the work SHALL NOT exceed one-third of the total contract price.  

• Make sure they obtain a permit prior to starting the job. Be wary of contractors who may ask you as the homeowner to obtain the permit. And be suspicious of contractors who say that a permit is not required – only minor repair work is exempt from building permit requirements.

• No final payment should be paid until the contract is completed to the satisfaction of the homeowner and the Permit Card has been signed off by all required inspectors.

If a contractor calling at your home is making you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, please call the Watertown Police.

The Watertown Building Department is here to help and answer any home improvement inquiries. We can be reached at 617-972-6480.

More information on the HIC program can be found at: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/home-improvement-contractor-hic-program

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