Construction Fraud Information
With the return of warm weather comes an increase in home repairs and construction. Unfortunately, related scams and fraud often increase as well. Below are information and resources to help Frederick County residents avoid these issues.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Homeowners should be cautious of door to door solicitors offering home improvement services. These situations could be scams. If the deal sounds "too good to be true", then it probably is!
Common examples include:
- Leftover supplies: Someone may claim to have "leftover supplies from a previous job" they are doing for a neighbor and can offer you a special deal. They will often begin to work for a fairly reasonable price, and then ask for an advance on the work (that they will return to complete). They then fail to complete the job or increase the cost substantially and refuse to finish until additional monies are paid.
- Failure to start: Someone may present a contract, take a deposit, then disappear or refuse to respond to phone calls.
- Access to home: Either of the these scams can also lead to other problems. Some may gain access to the home to inflict more damage, which they then offer to repair. Or worse, they gain access to the home to seek out valuables to steal.
Always ask to see their contractor's license. Do you really want to do business with someone who is not properly licensed?
Always request a contract defining the work that you want done, the start and end date of your job, and how much you are willing to pay for it. Make sure the contractor's name and address are legible on the contract (having it printed out or typed is a good idea).
A reputable contractor will always provide references and get their own building permits
(when needed). If your contractor is asking you to cut corners, then use caution!
What Is Construction Fraud?
A person who has committed the crime of construction fraud when they have received an advance (money, merchandise, or something of value) to perform construction or improvements on a property and then failed to perform the work. Additionally, that person must have failed to return the advance after given sufficient notice.
Sufficient notice is defined in §18.2-200.1 of the Code of Virginia. Contractors must be given the opportunity to return the advance before criminal proceedings can start. A certified "15 day demand letter" must be sent to the contractor with the return receipt requested.
If you believe that you have been a victim of construction fraud, please contact the Frederick County Sheriff at (540) 662-6162.
What Is Not Construction Fraud?
If a contractor completes all work, but you are unhappy with the results, a crime has not been committed. Your complaint is civil in nature. If you believe that the work has resulted in a building code violation, you may contact our Building Inspections Department at (540) 665-5650.