Home Improvement Schemes – Solicitations

Home Improvement Scams

Whether you are planning an addition to your home or simply getting new windows, finding a competent and reliable contractor is the first step to a successful and satisfying home improvement project. 

Your home may be your most valuable financial asset. It is important to be cautious when you hire someone to work on it. Before hiring a contractor, check with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to assure that they have the appropriate license (www.azroc.gov; Phoenix: (602) 542-1525/Tucson: (520) 628-6345)

Use the following tips to avoid scam contractors: 

1. Not all contractors operate within the law. Avoid contractors that:

  • Offer services door-to-door
  • Offer a “free” inspection and find a “problem” that needs to be repaired immediately, or point out other problems with your home that you never noticed yourself
  • Claim they are doing work in your neighborhood and have “extra material” left over
  • Use high pressure sales tactics, like pressuring you to sign a contract immediately or offering a “special deal” available “today only”
  • Demand full payment up front, particularly if payment is demanded in cash
  • Lack identification, such as a permit from the city or locality
  • Offers to help finance the project, either from their own funds or the funds of an associate, especially if your home equity or home deed is involved

2. Consumers can take some precautions to avoid home repair scams, including:

  • Get multiple estimates on any home repair job before signing a contract.
  • Compare bids and services and get bids in writing. A detailed, written proposal including the improvements discussed and the length of the project allows you to shop around. Be skeptical if the bid is too low. Cheaper is not always better. 
  • Ask the contractor for a list of references. Contact the contractor’s references to ask whether they were satisfied with the contractor and visit the site to check out the quality of the work.
  • Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau and make sure the contractor is registered with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.
  • Never pay in full up front, especially if cash is the only payment accepted.
  • Make sure the contractor is insured and bonded.
  • Write down all of the work to be done, the complete cost and time necessary to complete the job, and how payment will be handled.
  • Do research. Know how much you can afford and what you want done.
  • Opt for the local, well-established contractor. Don’t assume that a high-quality advertisement makes the contractor reliable.
  • Get bids in writing. Does the bid reflect the improvements you discussed? How long will the project take? A detailed, written proposal allows you to shop around.

3. Get a written contract that includes:

  • The price of the job
  • Payment schedule⁠—Never pay for the entire project before the work begins. Do not pay more than 1/3 of the total cost as a down payment. Remaining payments should be tied to completion of specified amounts of work.
  • A detailed description of the work and materials (including colors, brand names and patterns)
  • Estimated start and completion dates
  • The contractor’s name and address
  • A name and telephone number of the person to contact if problems arise
  • The contractor’s signature.

4. After Signing the Contract:

  • Permitting. Is a permit needed for your home improvement? Many localities require permits for building projects. Contact your local building department to see if a permit is needed. A contractor should not start work until the permit is issued.
  • Payment. Don’t make the final payment to the contractor until you know that all subcontractors and/or suppliers have been paid. Get written proof of payment. Subcontractors and suppliers may file a mechanics lien against your home if they haven’t been paid.
  • Warranty. Get a copy of the warranty. If a contractor guarantees labor and/or materials, those warranties should be in writing.
  • Records. Keep all records related to your project. This includes the contract, change orders, warranties, and correspondence. These records are important, particularly if you have a problem with your project.
  • Problems. Even if precautions are taken, problems may arise. Take time to talk to your contractor to resolve these issues. If problems continue, put your complaints in writing and send them to the contractor. Be sure to keep a copy of these complaints for your records.

Been scammed?
File a complaint today.

The Attorney General’s Office is here to help. If you believe you are the victim of a consumer scam or fraud, file a consumer complaint online right now. You can also call:

Phoenix: (602) 542-5763

Tucson: (520) 628-6648

Outside metro areas: (800) 352-8431

Bilingual consumer protection staff is available to assist.