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                             Consumer Protection

         I added this page to my website so that consumers weather  they are my clients or someone else's are aware of those that are  willing to take advantage of them. Take a moment and read  through this and make yourself aware of how to deal with such  contractors. The paragraph below is from the Office of the Texas  Attorney General.

                                     ***Please Read***

 
  Home Remodeling and Repair:

   For most consumers, the home they own and live in is their  largest and most important  investment. Adding improvements,  repairing damage, and keeping up with routine maintenance are  all part of the smart consumer's effort to protect and increase the  value of this important asset. Scammers know you'll spend  money to improve  your home. Be sure you know how to protect  yourself, and you should familiarize yourself with common home  improvement scams.

 Door-to-Door Sales:

  Be cautious when a salesperson appears at your door uninvited.  Two very common sales pitches often associated with home  improvement scams are:

  • The salesperson "was in your neighborhood and noticed that you needed" siding, storm windows, or some other improvement.
  • The salesperson "just did some work in your neighborhood and has extra" building supplies that would be just enough to repave your driveway or re-shingle your roof.

  Both come-ons are red flags. Businesses that do a particular kind  of home repair do not generally cruise neighborhoods, knocking    on doors, looking for houses that need them. This would not be a  very efficient way to find business. And while most contractors  will put up a sign in the yard where they are working to try and  win some neighborhood business, they are not likely to go from  door to door selling leftover materials. They are more likely to use  the leftovers on the next real job. Maybe not all door-to-door  contractors are scammers -- but many scammers do work from    door to door. Home improvement scams often flourish in the  wake of disasters, especially violent storms such as hurricanes  and tornado's. Some legitimate repair specialists may work door  to door in these circumstances, but so do con artists. You need to  know who the person is and how you would be able to find that  person. Is it a legitimate business person with dependable contact  information and a good reputation? Or a fly-by-night who will  disappear with your money? Too often, the unsolicited  salesperson uses high pressure sales tactics: "The offer is for  today only!" "Special price only if you do it today!" If you are  being hurried into a decision, your answer should be NO. You  need time to check them out, and if they are legitimate business  people, they will welcome your questions.  Also most cities  require that door to door sales person have a permit to solicit in  such a manner.

 Choosing a Contractor:

  Take time to choose the person who will work on your home. It is  a good idea to choose a contractor with an established physical  address. It is common for people in construction to use cell  phones, but you should be sure you can find anyone who has  done work on your house, in case problems arise. The best policy  is to get bids from more than one person for any work you are  going to have done on your house. Get the bids in writing, and  look for detail about exactly what will be done. Depending on the  nature of the work, you may wish to specify the kinds (grade or  thickness) of materials that will be used. Beware of the "low-ball"  bidder whose price is much lower than everyone else's. Question  the quality of the materials that will be used and the work that  will be done. A very low bidder may not plan to include all the  specific tasks you might expect, may use very cheap,  inexperienced labor, or second-rate materials. Most of the  legitimate bids will fall into a fairly close range. Seek references.  Ask to speak to satisfied customers, and ask them if you can visit  their homes to inspect the work done by a contractor you are  seriously considering. If you are hiring the kind of worker who  must be licensed by the state (such as an electrician), contact the  licensing agency to check the person's credentials and inquire  about complaints.

 The Texas Department of Licensing and  Regulation  (TDLR):

 is a state regulatory agency that currently  oversees over twenty  types of businesses, industries, trades and  occupations. The  agency is responsible for issuing licenses,  conducting  inspections, investigating complaints, assessing  penalties, setting  rules and standards and holding hearings.  Verify any claims the  contractor makes about energy savings or  increased security,  home value, or other added advantages to the  improvements you  are buying.   Be Smart about Contracts Most home repair and  remodeling work is performed under contract.  Legitimate  businesses will usually insist on having a contract for  their own  protection, and a well written contract should protect  the  homeowner, too. DO NOT sign a contract with blanks in it. It  happens: the blanks get filled in later, and the new terms are not  likely to be in the consumer's favor. DO NOT sign a contract  until you have carefully read and understood every word of it.  Sometimes it can be difficult to get out of a signed contract. These  precautions are important to remember whenever you sign a  contract of any kind. Consumers contact our agency all the time  complaining of unreasonable, even outrageous, terms of business.  Too often, they have signed a contract they have not read which  puts them at a disadvantage. Do not allow anyone to rush you  into signing a contract. The sales person should be willing to leave  the contract with you so you can read it carefully on your own  time. If anyone rushes you or tries to make you sign on the spot,  or will not leave a copy for you to study, you should be suspicious  of that person and the contract. Make sure everything promised  to you is in the written contract. Insist on a written contract that  specifically states what the contractor will do, when the work will  start, and when it will be completed. Make sure the contract  includes everything the salesperson or contractor promised and  spells out the cost of special orders and materials. Be aware that  most contractors will not allow you to change your mind for free  about what you want done or how you want it done. Often a  contractor will require a service charge for changing the work  order, and this should be covered in the contract. Get and keep  copies of everything you sign at the time you sign it.   What the  Law Says Any contract you sign for work on your homestead must  contain the following warning next to the space for your  signature:
               "When you sign a contract for home improvements on  your homestead, the contractor can legally place a lien on the  homestead". If you sign a contract containing the language  quoted  above and you fail to make the payments, the company  can take  away your home. Therefore, it is extremely important  that you  understand exactly what your obligations will be under  the  contract, and that you are confident you can meet those  obligations. If you have any questions or doubts, consult an  attorney before you sign the contract. If there will be a lien on  your home, make sure a notary is present to witness your s  signature. A notary other than the salesperson must be present to  witness you sign the document creating the lien. It should be a  warning to you if the salesperson does not have a notary present  or if he says he will take care of the notarization later. It bears  repeating: get and keep copies of everything you sign. If your  contractor fails to pay the subcontractors and suppliers, YOU are  responsible, even though you have not contracted directly with  the subcontractor or supplier. Under Texas law, if a subcontractor  or supplier who furnishes labor or materials for the construction  of improvements on a property is not paid, the property may be  subject to a lien for the unpaid amount. If your homestead  improvement exceeds $5,000 in cost, the contractor is required  by law to deposit your payments in a construction account at a  financial institution. Ask the contractor for written verification of  the existence of the construction account. Monitor deposits and  disbursements to subcontractors, laborers, and vendors. Access  to the account record should be included as a requirement in your  written construction contract.   Paying for the Work It is normal  for a contractor to ask for partial payment in advance, and  provided that you have taken the precautions recommended  above, you should expect to provide a part of the cost before the  work begins. However, it is notorious that scammers involved in  door-to-door rip-offs will ask for payment in full in advance, and t  then abscond without completing (sometimes without even  starting) the job. Even with a reputable business and a sound  written contract in place, you should not pay in full until the work  is complete and you have inspected it yourself and found it  satisfactory. A partial payment schedule will usually specify what  part of the job has been done when a partial payment is due.  Inspect the work and make sure the contractor has met the  schedule before you make your payment. If you are asked to sign  a certificate of completion, do not do so until all the work is  completely finished, the site is cleaned up, and you are satisfied.  If the job is expensive enough that you will need to finance it, be  sure to shop around for the best terms on the financing. This is  separate from taking bids on the cost of the work. In choosing  your source of financing, you will be concerned with the rate of  interest, finance charges and the terms of the pay-out. As with  any financing agreement, you should calculate the entire cost of  interest and charges over the term of the loan. A home  improvement company may offer financing, but this is not  necessarily the best option, even though it may seem easy to  arrange the financing and the work contract at the same time. Be  aware that some contractors will have you sign a credit contract  to pay a certain price for the work plus a finance charge, then  immediately sell the right to collect on the contract for 20-50%  less than the contract price. That usually means you could have  gotten the work done for 20-50% less by paying cash or arranging  financing yourself. If you are asked to sign a credit check  application, read the form carefully and make sure it does not  bind you to anything. Make sure it really is a credit check and not  a contract. If you do not understand everything in the document,  do not sign it until you have had someone else explain it to you.    Mold Remediation Not all water and mold damage is covered by  your residential property insurance policy. Most of the  homeowner's insurance policies sold in Texas are known as HO-A  policies. In general, HO-A policies only cover sudden and  accidental water leaks and do not cover damage resulting from  continuous or repeated leakage. Many do not cover remediation  of mold; those that do generally have a cap on coverage. The  other principal type of policy, commonly offered in Texas in the  past, is referred to as HO-B. HO-B policies pay for the full    replacement cost of the structure of your home, except for items  specifically excluded. Few insurers in Texas are now offering 



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