With Coronavirus Pandemic, Risk of Home Improvement Scams are Sure to Escalate
When it comes to the home improvement and repair industry, most contractors out there are honest and fair. But like any industry, air duct cleaning is not immune to scammers and con artists looking to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. And now, with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, swindlers are on the prowl to an even greater degree, eager to cheat homeowners who are already concerned about the health and safety of their families and homes.
When it comes to air duct cleaning specifically, homeowners should beware of “blow-and-go” companies that often hook unsuspecting homeowners with bargain-basement prices. It’s a popular marketing tactic. These companies charge a nominal fee and then do an inferior job, only cleaning what the homeowner can see, leaving dirt and contaminants deep within the system. Deceitful contractors also up-sell add-on services, persuading the homeowner to pay for unneeded services. For instance, they may falsely lead homeowners to believe they have mold or other toxic substances in their HVAC systems, or use scare tactics to convince a homeowner that urgent repairs are necessary.
It’s important to know the signs of a scam, and as a homeowner, you can take steps to make sure you don’t fall prey to dishonest tactics. Here are five common schemes to avoid:
- Pressure for a Quick Decision: A respectable company won’t pressure you into making an immediate decision. Qualified contractors know that home improvement services are a serious investment and understand if you need to take a few days to carefully consider your decision.
- Ask for Payment Up Front or Only Accept Cash: While a reasonable down payment can be part of the process, an excessive down payment — or asking for payment in full — is a red flag. A reputable company might require a small deposit up front, leaving most of the balance to be paid at the completion of the job.
- Convince the Homeowner of Unforeseen Problems: While unforeseen problems do pop up, be cautious if your contractor starts finding reasons to increase prices. Make sure all changes are in writing, and if you’re suspicious about price increases, consider getting a second opinion.
- Knock on Your Door: Beware of a contractor that knocks on your door saying he/she was “just in the neighborhood.” An established company will earn business through advertisements or referrals. Going door-to-door to find work is a sure sign of a scammer.
- Low-ball Prices: Not to say that reputable companies never offer promotional pricing or discounts, but it’s best to be cautious of companies that promote rock-bottom prices for services. Beware of coupons with an ultra-low price for “whole house air duct cleaning” or “HVAC mold and soot removal.”
These are extraordinary times! When you’re ready to tackle those air ducts, make sure you choose a qualified contractor to ensure the job is done right – one who is certified and licensed for the task. NADCA members have advanced training and certification in HVAC system cleaning and follow a higher standard when it comes to customer service.
NADCA makes it really simple for homeowners to find an air duct cleaning professional. All it takes is a zip code to search our online directory to find a NADCA member in your area.