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"Be Careful Who You Hire To Swing That Hammer!"

CONTACT: Jason Duquette-Hoffman, Consumer Assistance Program, (802) 656-8755

March 11, 2011

With spring just around the corner, Attorney General William H. Sorrell is advising Vermonters to choose contractors carefully for their home improvement projects. "Home improvement fraud strikes at what is, for most people, your biggest investment - your home," says Sorrell. Contractors are not generally required to be licensed in Vermont, so Sorrell advises Vermont consumers to "be diligent about asking for references, getting recommendations from friends, and insisting on seeing bond or insurance information before you sign the contract." Home improvement fraud costs Vermonters thousands of dollars each year, according to complaint records from the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program. Home improvement fraud is a crime in Vermont.

Protect against home improvement fraud:

  • Get recommendations and check references- If you are looking to hire a contractor, talk to friends, neighbors, colleagues and other people you trust and get recommendations of who they have used. Ask any potential contractor for several references and contact those references. Ask questions about the contractor's work quality, timeliness and ability to stick to a budget. Find out if there were any billing or cost issues, and how those were resolved.
  • Write a detailed work plan as part of your contract- One of the best protections you can have is a detailed plan of the work and the cost of items. Tie payment to clear, objective goals in the contract that can be easily determined. Be clear about what remedy you can seek if the contractor fails to meet the terms of the contract, and what, if any, warranty is offered on the work.
  • Get complete and thorough information from your contractor- Believe it or not, many consumers hire a contractor, only to realize they have very little information about how to contact the contractor when a problem arises. Require the full name, address and telephone numbers for the business and the individual contractor. Ask for the name, contact information and policy number for the contractor's liability insurance company, and verify that the policy is still active.
  • Check complaint histories- Before you hire a contractor, contact the Consumer Assistance Program to get the complaint history for the contractor, and check the State Home Improvement Fraud Registry.
  • If you are having difficulty with a contractor, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program (CAP). Contact CAP toll free in Vermont with questions at (800) 649-2424 or (802) 656-3183, or visit CAP on the web at for more information or to file a complaint. If you believe you have been the victim of home improvement fraud, you may also file a report of home improvement fraud with your local police department or law enforcement agency.

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