Warning signs you should watch for include when a
- Contacts you first (comes to your home uninvited or contacts
you by telephone);
- Tells you that you need to make repairs immediately;
- Talks too fast (to confuse you) and pressures you to sign
- Tells you that they are doing work in your neighborhood and
claims they have "extra materials" left from another job;
- Offers to use your home as a "display home" or
offers a discounted price or "discounts" for referrals, but only if you buy
- Tells you something that sounds too good (or bad) to be true.
(It probably is not true!)
If you are a low-income resident of Jackson, Clay or Platte
Counties, you may be eligible for minor home repairs or weatherization assistance.
For a listing of agencies that provide assistance, contact the Neighborhood Assistance
Center, located on the 4th floor of City Hall, 414 E. 12th Street, Kansas City, Mo.
Do your homework and be prepared:
Before you contact a home improvement company, decide first
what you want to have done and how much you can afford to spend. Don't let the company
decide for you.
Talk to friends and family to get names of reputable
contractors they have used.
If you need financing to pay for home repairs, shop around
first. The financing offered by a contractor may be expensive, so check with banks, credit
unions, etc., to see if you can find a better deal. Be wary of credit life insurance and
credit disability insurance, as these can be very expensive and are rarely needed.
If you cannot afford to pay for home improvements in cash,
many honest (and dishonest) home improvement companies will offer to finance the cost for
you. Many times they want to take a mortgage (called a "deed of trust") on your
home. A deed of trust means that if you do not make all of your payments, you could lose
your home! So think twice before signing a deed of trust or any other contract -- ask
yourself whether you are willing to risk losing your home if you get behind in your
Get at least two estimates:
Many companies give free inspections and written estimates --
get two or three before choosing a contractor. Remember that the lowest price is not
always the best deal. Compare costs, materials, and methods suggested by different
companies to decide what materials and methods are best for your home.
Is the company reputable? How long has it been in business?
Ask for references and then check them out! Make sure the company is licensed, bonded, and
insured. Ask to see its certificate of insurance. Contact the Better Business Bureau and
Attorney General to check on complaints.
Ask if there is a guarantee or warranty. If so, make sure it
is in writing. If the company won't put its promises in writing, look for another company
Do not sign the contract until you read it carefully. If
the salesperson pressures you to sign before you read and understand all of the contract -
don't sign it! Never rely on the salesperson to read or explain the contract to you. Ask a
trusted friend or lawyer to assist you.
Do not let someone talk you into buying something you don't
need -- or can't afford.
Do not pay for repairs in advance. Pay
the final payment only after the work is complete.
Do not sign a contract unless:
- It includes a detailed description of the work to be done and
specifies exactly what materials will be used and their quality;
- All of the contractor's promises are in writing;
- The contract includes the starting date and estimated
completion date; and
- The contract is fair and the terms (including the price,
finance charges and payments) are what you agreed on. If not, do not sign it!
Be sure to get a copy of everything you sign when you sign
Inspect the work
Make sure that the contractor has a City permit to do the
work. Inspect all of the work very carefully to make sure it was done properly. If you
have any doubts or questions, do NOT make your final payment or sign a "completion
certificate" until the work is properly finished.
There are Missouri laws that allow you to sue if you have
been cheated by false or unfair sales practices. You may be able to file a lawsuit to
cancel the sale and also sue for your money damages, your attorney's fees, and punitive
damages. Under federal law, if your home is used as security for a loan, you may have the
right to cancel (in writing) the loan or contract within three days of signing the
If you think you have been the victim of a scam, you should:
- Consult a lawyer immediately. There are time deadlines to
cancel sales and pursue legal claims.
- Contact your county prosecuting attorney and the Missouri
Attorney General's Office.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau and the National Fraud
The best guarantee against getting ripped off is INFORMATION.
So ask plenty of questions, and be slow to sign anything or to part with your money!
This is not intended as specific legal advice. For legal
advice, you should consult a lawyer without delay.
You can report unfair or deceptive sales practices of a
Missouri merchant to:
Missouri Attorney General's Office
Consumer Complaint Unit
P.O. Box 899
Jefferson City, Missouri 65102
National Fraud Information Center
You can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or
ask for information about a merchant. The office serving the Kansas City area is:
Better Business Bureau
306 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64106
To find out if a contractor has a Kansas City, Missouri,
occupational license, call 274-2416, to check on a contractor's license, call 274-1678,
and for information on building permits, call 545-5000. To find out if a corporation is
authorized to do business in Missouri and the names of its corporate officers, call the
Corporations Office at: (573) 751-4153.
For help in finding a private attorney, you may call the
Kansas City Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service at: (816) 221-9472. Also, there are
Legal Aid offices located throughout Missouri, serving people with limited income and the
elderly. The office serving Jackson, Clay, and Platte counties in Missouri is:
Legal Aid of Western Missouri
1005 Grand, Suite 600
Kansas City, Missouri 64106
For advice as to your legal rights and remedies, you should
consult a lawyer. There are time deadlines to file claims, so you should call a lawyer
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