Information submitted by District Attorney Gregory Oakes
With summer finally here, many homeowners will soon be seeking to have repairs and renovations made to their home.
While most contractors are honest and dependable, every year the Oswego County District Attorney’s Office receives calls about contractors who took the homeowner’s money, performed little to no work, and was never heard from again.
To protect against fraud and theft, the District Attorney’s Office recommends that you follow these simple tips:
1. Put it in writing: New York state law requires a contractor to provide a written contract for home improvement work.
The contract should include a timeline for work to be completed, a payment schedule and as many specifics as possible about the project, such as types or brands of materials.
2. Never pay the full price up front. Establish a payment schedule that includes an initial down payment and subsequent incremental payments until the work is completed.
Final payment should be withheld until all work is completed and all required inspections and certificates of occupancy are finalized.
3. Know where your payments are going. Contractors are required by state law to either: (i) Carry bond insurance to protect your money, or (ii) Put your payments into an escrow account and use it only for your job until it is substantially complete (contractors are legally required to disclose where money will be held in escrow).
Obtain proof of which option the contractor is using before hiring them.
To protect your home and wallet, the District Attorney’s Office recommends you never do business with any contractor who is unwilling to abide by these terms. Even if the contractor seems trustworthy, failure to follow these tips puts you at risk.
If you believe a contractor has committed fraud and stolen your money, you should contact a police agency to file a complaint.
The police will work with the District Attorney’s Office to determine whether criminal charges may be filed or whether it is a civil matter.