As warmer temperatures return to much of the country, many homeowners are firing up the air conditioners for the first time in months. After setting the thermostat to a comfortable temperature, you notice the air coming from the vents isn’t as cool as you remember it being last year. Come to think of it, it’s been a couple years since you last had the AC serviced. Who should you call?
There are so many repair companies out there that it’s easy to become overwhelmed when trying to choose. But many of these companies aren’t on the up-and-up. The Arizona Republic reports that a Tennessee-based heating and air conditioning company was recently charged with ripping off senior citizens and using deceptive sales tactics. They are accused of selling equipment the elderly didn’t need or couldn’t afford and using false safety notices to scare people into buying services they didn’t need.
Last year I saw a series by Dateline NBC on home repair scams. Each episode focused on one area of the home: pools, garage doors, plumbing, and air conditioning. During the garage door repair episode, the Dateline crew installed hidden cameras in one homeowner’s garage and called several local companies to report a malfunctioning garage door opener. During some of the service calls, the repair workers actually just stood around in the garage talking on their cell phones. They didn’t even look at the garage door opener. They then reported to the homeowner that they needed to replace the entire unit at a cost of several hundred dollars. A variation of these events happened with each of the other episodes. In some cases, when work was done, shortcuts were taken and low-quality materials were used to make the repair.
Unfortunately, many so-called repair companies are in business to rip you off. So how do you avoid these people and increase the chances that your repair will be done correctly? Below are some tips to protect yourself when hiring a contractor.
1. What is the company’s reputation? Ask them for references and look around online to see what others are saying about them. Check the Better Business Bureau to see if they have any complaints against them. In addition, your friends, neighbors and coworkers are great sources to find honest repair work.
2. Does their company vehicle have the company name, address and phone number painted on it? Ask to see their business license and write down the number.
3. Ask to see the worn or broken parts before they are replaced. Make sure they’re using new parts for the repair – some try to use old parts to save money. And make sure they aren’t fixing what’s not broken.
4. Anyone who pressures you to sign today is trying to rip you off. Same goes for those who try to do work without any written agreements. Be very wary of unsolicited offers and pushy door-to-door salespeople.
5. Never pay a large amount of money up front. Agree to pay in installments as the work is done. The scamsters love to collect money up front and vanish overnight.
6. For more expensive repairs, get at least two estimates in writing.
Do you have any other tips for finding honest home repair?
Photo by estimate.com.au