submitted by Bucks County Consumer Protection Agency
Q. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I am anxious to get some work done to the outside of my home. The first thing on my list is getting the driveway paved and then some landscaping. I was asking people I know for contractor recommendations when my neighbor said that he recently heard of a contractor working in the neighborhood, knocking on doors offering a very good price for this kind of work. It sure sounds like a good deal for the price. I’m thinking of hiring them since they are already in the neighborhood. Is this a good idea? G.T., Plumsteadville.
A. This is the time when consumers want to start fixing up their yards and this is the time when “gypsy” contractors start going door-to-door trying to drum up business. The problem is that a good majority of these contractors that go door-to-door are not legitimate. They are not registered contractors whose business has a physical address and the phone numbers they give are only cell phone numbers, not a landline. Each year we see a spike in complaints from consumers who have paid for work and either the business did not come back to finish the work or they find out the work was subpar, and that’s when they realize they have no way to reach the business. Please beware of this type of contractor. If you want to have work done please find a reputable company by doing the following; make sure they have a license to work in Pennsylvania, ask the business for their Home Improvement Contractor number or (HIC#); make sure you ask them what their physical address and phone number are for the business, ask for a written estimate; make sure the estimate or contract has a detailed description of the work to be performed, the materials to be used, and a start date and a completion date. If any warranty is offered that should also be in writing. Remember, any contract that is signed in your home gives you a three-day right to cancel notice, which should be attached to the contract. There may be a one-third deposit up front requested, but there is no reason to pay in full until the work is completed to your satisfaction. Once the bill is paid in full there is no incentive left for that business to come back and complete the work.
If you have questions or concerns, or you would like to see if we have received any complaints against a particular contractor, call Bucks County Consumer Protection at 1-800-942-2669. Before you call, please have ready the contractor’s name and telephone number so that we may search our database. Consumers can also access our brochure on the Home Improvement Contractors Act by going to our website at www.buckscounty.org and click on Consumer Protection, and then click on consumer tips. While at our website you can also find out if a business is registered to work in Pennsylvania. Just click on Consumer Links, and then click on www.attorneygeneral.gov – PA Attorney General Website. Once there, click on “Home Improvement Consumer Information.”