PARKERSBURG -Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said West Virginians can and should take a few simple steps when hiring a contractor for home improvement projects.
"After a long, harsh winter, the weather is finally warming up in West Virginia. That means many people will be looking to hire contractors for home improvements inside and outside of their home," Morrisey said. "It is always important to verify the contractor's license and to make sure you are getting a reputable person by checking references and prior work first."
Morrisey said consumers should pay contractors in agreed-upon increments as work is being completed rather than paying upfront for work and materials. Many contractors will not require a payment until the job is completed; others may require a down payment for materials.
In those cases, consumers should ask for a list of materials and acquire them separately. Bigger projects, especially those involving bank lending, should have a written contract with defined completion tasks and dates.
Consumers should regularly check on the progress of the work and not make a final payment until all of the work is complete and it passes inspection.
Additional tips consumers should follow before hiring a contractor include:
* For questions about home improvement scams or complaints for the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, call 800-368-8808.
* Shop around before hiring a contractor. This includes asking for references to verify the caliber of the contractor's work.
* Do not hire a contractor who cold calls you offering to do work using "leftover supplies" from another job.
* Avoid a contractor that pressures you into an immediate decision.
* Never sign over an insurance check to contractor.
* Call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or the West Virginia Division of Labor's Contractor Licensing Board at 304-558-7890 to ensure the contractor is in good standing. Consumers also can look online at wvlabor.com/newwebsite/pages/contractor-searchNEW.cfm.
"West Virginia law does not require workers on projects that cost $2,499 or less to have a contractor's license," Morrisey said. "Therefore it is vitally important for consumers to check references to make sure the 'handyman' truly is handy."
The category of "home repairs and remodeling services" was one of the top 10 most common complaint areas reported to the Consumer Protection Division in 2013. Calls and complaints often increase as the weather gets warmer and days get longer.
"This is the season when many of us will look to make improvements around our home," Morrisey said. "It is always best to do your research before hiring anyone to help do repairs or improvements around your home. Remembering some of these tips and educating yourself on how to hire a contractor will guide you through your decision making process."