Home Repair Issues and How to Spot Them
For the senior citizens among us, their home is their largest single asset and a source of pride. In many cases, the home is paid off (despite the housing disaster of the past few years, 1 in 3 homes in the United States are owned free and clear, mostly by the elderly). As the homeowner ages, the odds of the home having deferred maintenance tends to increase. The little things don’t get done, or don’t get done timely.
Unfortunately, there are many scam artists out there who are only too happy to help out seniors with their deferred maintenance problems. These scammers can either work off the books for cash, or for larger jobs, attach a lien against the property, ensuring an eventual payout. In this article, we look at the more common home repair scams.
The most common are roofing or driveway scams. These work as follows. There’s a knock at the door, and the scammer explains they were “in the neighborhood” and need work, and noticed that the home in question needs roofing or driveway work. Since they need the work right now, the senior is told that the work is available for a few hundred dollars. Sensing a would-be bargain, the senior agrees. Some work is done, and its’ time for payment. Suddenly, threats and intimidation are used to drive up the cost from the few hundred quoted to thousands of dollars. Fearful and intimidated, the senior hands over the money or writes a check.
Remedy: Don’t hire a home repair company that just knocks on your door. Get an estimate in writing, and pay only written amount agreed to. If the worker becomes belligerent or intimidating, call the police.
Related to this scam is the “asphalt paving scam” that works as follows. A pickup truck of asphalt or other building materials cruises the street. If they see a house that looks like it needs repair, or if there is someone out front, the truck occupants explain that they were working nearby and have some materials left over from the job. Since you need some work done, and there are materials left over, let’s make a deal. After the work is completed, the homeowner learns that the work is half done, or poorly done, and the price paid is much too high.
Remedy: Legitimate companies don’t prowl the streets with pickup truck loads of building materials. Avoid anybody that offers to work for you to dispose of surplus building material.
Finally, many seniors fall for the roof repair scam. In this scam, the scammer knocks on the door of the senior and explains that they had installed/repaired the roof some years earlier, and they were back in the neighborhood to do the required upkeep and repairs. When there’s resistance from the senior, the excuses keep coming until the scammer gets a check. If any work is done, it is superficial repairs that most likely were not needed anyway.
Remedy: most roofing companies do a terrible job following up on past customers, so the odds are long you will be contacted by them in the first place. Second, sending somebody door to door is time consuming and expensive. If somebody comes to your door to do repair work unsolicited, call the police or slam the door in their face.