WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Contractors may try to take advantage of homeowners and businesses left vulnerable by Hurricane Sandy, but Westchester County has tips for those with property damage to avoid scams and gouging.
“Common sense is a consumer’s greatest asset,” County Executive Rob Astorino said. “Use it. People who have had their homes damaged are upset and very vulnerable. Opportunistic individuals can and will take advantage of this.”
The county will enforce laws against gouging, said John Gaccione, acting director of the county Department of Consumer Protection.
“Taking advantage of consumers in need and raising prices without any justification will be investigated by the department,” Gaccione said.
To find out if a contractor is licensed you can check the Consumer Protection Department's website.
Here are other tips from the Consumer Protection Department:
- If you haven’t done so, call your insurance company as soon as you can. Many insurance companies have existing relationships with home repair contractors.
- Watch out for contractors who are suddenly in the area. Fly-by-night contractors will take advantage of homeowners in need. Don’t get rushed into signing a contract or agreeing to repairs.
- Avoid contractors who demand payment in cash or want more than one-third of the total payment before work has begun.
- Do not agree to an oral contract. Get everything you can in writing. Insist on a written contract that sets forth all the important details of the job. That includes a detailed scope of work, a start date, a completion date, a cancellation clause, warranty information and a schedule of payments.
- Get at least three estimates. In reviewing the estimates, don’t always go with the lowest bidder. A higher bid may be worth it if the contractor is the most experienced, uses better materials and keeps to a timeline.
- Consumers who need to purchase essential goods and services need to take notice of what they are paying for these items and should contact the department if prices seem to be much higher than normal.