Scam graphic, stock image

Home un-improvement: do your homework when choosing a contractor

Building season is almost here, so don’t get taken for a ride when it comes to contractors

Home improvement season is just around the corner, and Better Business Bureau (BBB) is urging the public to use caution when hiring a contractor.

Last year, BBB received several reports about people losing thousands of dollars to contractor scams, primarily due to fly-by-night businesses using high-pressure sales tactics and demanding upfront fees. The con artists find plausible-sounding reasons for customers to pay money — often a substantial amount — upfront, then will either deliver shoddy work or no work at all before disappearing.

Home improvement scams were number three on the BBB list of “Top 10 Riskiest Scams” across Canada for 2020. The scam has the third highest susceptibility rate at 73.9 per cent, with consumers losing a median average of $1,000. However, individual losses can be significantly higher.

Home improvement scams can start with a knock on the door, a flyer, or an ad; sometimes they set up fake websites and business accounts on social media. The contractor may offer a low price for the job, or say they can do the job quickly. A common hook is the claim that they have been working in your neighbourhood and have leftover supplies from another project.

The “contractor” often vanishes without trace once they have secured money upfront. If they do start the job, a shady contractor might claim that they have found issues that substantially increase the cost of the project. If you object, they threaten to walk away and leave a half-finished project.

A consumer in Delta told BBB about his experience with a “contractor” who turned out to be a scammer:

“This guy shows up to my home and offers to start work on my exterior patio. Says he takes deposits on materials because he’s been scammed before and was left with unpaid material bills. So I concede and give him $2,000. He leaves, comes back with about $300 in wood, then leaves again saying he had to go to another lumber store and then a meeting and he would be back later. Then I didn’t hear from him, or get a single text response.

“I texted, my husband texted and called him several times. No response. My friend went on the classified page where I found him, and emailed asking for a quote and he got a response from the carpenter, though he was still not responding to my texts.

“I texted him and told him I was going to call the RCMP if he didn’t return my money by noon the next day. He has not brought my money back, and is not answering any of our messages. I have filed a report with the RCMP.”

If you’re looking to do some home improvements and want to hire a contractor, watch out for red flags. Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, and handshake deals without a contract.

Search for a contractor’s Business Profile on Get free information on their history of complaints, read verified Customer Reviews, and see if they are an Accredited Business. Also search for the name of the company online along with “Complaint”, “Review” or “Scam” to find different results and see if they are legitimate.

Ask for references and check them out. Bad contractors will be reluctant to share this information and scammers will not wait for you to do your homework. If you can, get references from past customers: both older references (to check on the quality of the work) and newer references (to make sure current employees are up to the task).

Try to work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing, and insurance, provide detailed information about the work you want them to do, and know the local building code and other requirements. Always be sure to get a written contract with the price, materials, and timeline, and confirm that your vendor will get the necessary permits.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

RCMP cruiser, no date.
One man apprehended after high-risk situation in Ashcroft

Distraught man made threats directed at police, potentially had access to firearms

Janice Maurice, president of the South Cariboo Museum Society, and vice-president Peter Brandle, hope to see the Clinton Museum reopen its doors this spring. (Kelly Sinoski - 100 Mile Free Press).
Clinton Museum anticipated to reopen this year

Society board waiting to hear from province on health orders.

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Interior Health hospitals not strained by rising COVID case counts

While provincial hospitalizations rise, health care systems in the B.C. Interior remain robust, say officials

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Since April 4, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Vancouver the largest source of domestic flights with COVID-19 cases: data

This month alone, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Most Read