Avoid Repair Fraud
You may discover that your damaged home or business needs extensive repairs or, in some cases, demolition. Consumers need to carefully determine how to deal with the necessary repairs and the offers they receive to do the work.
Itinerant contractors will flock to disaster sites, drawn by the demand for repairs and the availability of money. Consumers, anxious to make their homes livable again, may let their guard down and overlook the standard warning signs of a home repair scam. Using good judgment and taking the necessary precautions could save you money and frustration.
Important tips for selecting a contractor:
Make sure the contractor you hire is licensed. Ask for their
licensing information and verify that it is current and
accurate. Contractors operating in Fairfax County may need a home
improvement license, a business license, and a license from the
Virginia Board for Contractors.
- For information about home improvement licenses, contact the Code Enforcement Branch of Land Development Services with the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services at 703-324-1937, TTY 711.
- Business licenses are issued by the Department of Tax Administration, 703-222-8234, TTY 703-222-7594.
Check with the Virginia
Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation for
licensing information at 804-367-8511, TDD
- Check the contractor's complaint history record with:
Ask friends and neighbors for contractor referrals. If the
contractor provides customer references of projects that have been
completed that are similar to yours, contact the customer to find out
about their experience, and if possible, inspect the work.
Make sure the contractor has insurance to cover damage to your
home, or injury to employees working on your property. Obtain the name
of the insurance carrier and the agent. Contact them to verify that the
policy is in force and won’t expire before your job is
Get at least three written estimates from contractors and find
out if they will be using subcontractors on the project. The
estimates should have a complete description of the job, materials to
be used, start and completion date, and total costs. Compare the
estimates and get explanations for all price differences.
After you decide on a contractor, insist on a written
contract. Make sure it includes all agreements regarding the
work to be done and materials to be used. A sample
contract is available from the Virginia Board for
To protect yourself from liability for unpaid bills to subcontractors
and suppliers of materials, request that the contractor furnish you
with a signed mechanic's lien waiver. Without a lien waiver, if
your contractor fails to pay a subcontractor or supplier, you could be
responsible for the payments, and those who worked on your home or
provided material may place a lien against your property.
Make a minimal deposit and don’t let payments get ahead of the
completed work. Keep records of all of your payments, and don’t
make the final payment until you are completely satisfied with the
Once work starts, verify that permits have been obtained and
monitor to be sure all of the work passes inspection. Use
FIDO to check the status of a permit, or call the Fairfax County
Permit Application Center at 703-222-0801, TTY
- Before you make a final payment, get copies of your warranties for materials and workmanship, and make sure you are satisfied with the job.