Price Gouging and Repair Contractors -- Winter Preparedness Tips
In the wake of major snowstorms, residents are reminded to be cautious when solicited by people offering to provide services such as repairs to roof and decks; snow clearing; car towing.
The Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act makes it illegal to charge unconscionable prices for 30 days after a declared state of emergency. This state law prohibits price gouging for “necessary goods and services” that are in demand after a disaster. These goods and services include but are not limited to water, food, ice, gasoline, generators, batteries and building materials. The law only applies during a time of disaster when either the governor or the president declares a state of emergency in Virginia.
- Towing — File complaints about price gouging for a Fairfax police-directed tow with the Police Department at 703-280-0575, TTY 711.
- General — If you have concerns about this or other price gouging, to file a complaint, complete a form (PDF) from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services or call 1-800-552-9963, TTY 711, to receive the form by mail or fax. Send completed complaint forms by e-mail to email@example.com or mail to the Fairfax County Department of Cable and Consumer Services, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 443, Fairfax, VA 22035, attention “Price Gouging.” For more information about filing a price-gouging complaint, contact the county at 703-222-8435, TTY 711.
The aftermath of severe storm damage often results in an increase in consumer complaints resulting from contractor fraud or shoddy repairs by unlicensed contractors. The Fairfax County Department of Cable and Consumer Services offers tips for working with contractors:
Always ask to see a copy of a contractor’s license from the
Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
(DPOR), or check for a valid contractor license at
www.state.va.us/dpor, or 804-367-8511. Any contractor seeking work
solicitation must carry a solicitor license issued by Fairfax
Check a contractor’s licensing credentials. Write down the license
number, expiration date, name of the licensee, address and phone
numbers. (Make sure the contractor has a current physical address, not
a P.O. Box).
Find out how long the contractor has held a license and check for any
disciplinary action taken by DPOR.
Make sure the contractor has a personal liability insurance policy and
verify it with the contractor’s insurance agent.
Call the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental
Services Permits Branch at 703-324-1555, TTY 711, to determine whether a permit is
necessary for the intended work. Ask for information on each
contractor’s licensing and disciplinary status.
Obtain bids from three contractors, ask for three references from each,
and find out if the contractor provided a monetary discount or payment
in exchange for using a consumer as a reference.
Insist on a detailed written contract with a start and completion
Do not sign anything that you do not understand.
Do not pay cash.
Do not rely on verbal agreements.
Do not pay more than 10 percent down and do not allow payments to get
ahead of the work.
Do not succumb to high pressure or scare tactics, over-friendly sales
pitches, materials left over, or escalating prices.
Do search the Consumer Protection Division’s Complaint History files
to locate any complaints previously filed against a contractor.
- Be aware of excessive pricing for snow shoveling when hiring someone to clear driveways and sidewalks.