News

Actions

CALL 6: What happens to contractor complaints?

Posted at 11:48 AM, Feb 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-29 23:14:09-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Many Hoosiers will hire a contractor this spring to do home repairs and remodeling.

Call 6 Investigates went behind the scenes at the Attorney General’s Office - Consumer Protection division - to find out what really happens when a complaint is filed against a contractor.

The Attorney General’s office receives hundreds of complaints a year about home repair companies with roofing, chimney, gutter, and general home remodeling topping the list.

Home Repair Types

# of Complaints in 2015

Windows/Doors

40

Paving/Concrete

46

Pool & Spa Installation

9

Floor Covering

29

Painting/Siding

26

Roofing/Chimney/Gutter

160

Electrical

9

Home Maintenance

26

Energy/Heat/Air

65

Water Treatment/Well/Water Softener

6

Waterproofing

8

Pest Control

13

Burglar Alarms

75

General Home Remodel/Improvement

151

Plumbing

43

Household Appliances

85

New Construction

19

Landscaping/Maintenance

90

Grand Total

900

“We receive over 10,000 complaints annually through our consumer hotline and online complaints,” said Richard Bramer, Director of the Consumer Protection Division for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.  “When you need a contractor, you usually need them quickly especially if it’s for home repair. When you get into a rush, sometimes you can be taken advantage of.”

Bramer said he believes roofing and gutter contractors have the most complaints because consumers can’t always see the work being done, and workers may be tempted to cut corners.

Bramer explained when a complaint is filed, it is referred to a consumer mediator who investigates the complaint.

“We try to mediate the problem and resolve it if at all possible,” said Bramer.

But if the contractor doesn’t respond, the complaint is often closed, which can discourage homeowners looking for justice.

“Many times, I will close a case, but I’ll say let’s monitor for future complaints,” said Bramer. “We meet weekly to look for trends amongst complaints because we're very interested if the same person or entity is having multiple complaints filed against them by various Hoosiers.”

Bramer said if a contractor changes names or locations, it can be difficult to hold them accountable.

“If someone is evasive, if they’re changing their address, if they’re moving from place to place, if they’re changing their name, it is difficult for us to find them, if they’re purposefully evading the system,” said Bramer.

The Attorney General’s office has filed half a dozen lawsuits in the last year against home repair companies.

PREVIOUS |  Seniors targeted by home and landscape scammers; Indiana AG files suit | Attorney general files suit against roofing company

Bramer said the best way to find a good contractor is referrals from good friends and neighbors.

Before hiring a contractor, check references and check court records for criminal charges or civil lawsuits.

“Not everybody can control whether they’re sued or not, but if you see a pattern of lawsuits, the more concerned you should be in my experience,” said Bramer.

TIPS FOR HIRING A CONTRACTOR:

  • Get estimates in writing
  • Check for criminal charges or civil suits here
  • Check for a contractor’s license
  • Ask for references and call them
  • Ask to see examples of their work
  • Ask about insurance: personal liability, worker’s comp, and property damage coverage
  • Pay wisely, not all up front

You can also get tips on avoiding home improvement scams from the Federal Trade Commission, the Indiana Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.

Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney tracked down the story of a Greenwood homeowner who said he lost his life savings to a home improvement contractor. Find that, and what the homeowner wishes he knew before he paid up, here.

-------------

Download the new and improved RTV6 app to get the latest news on the go and receive alerts to your phone

Sign up to have the latest news headlines delivered straight to your email inbox