As a scorching Texas summer winds down to a close and gives way to cooler fall temperatures, now is an excellent time for home and business owners to prepare their properties for the next season. Whether revitalizing a lawn damaged by the summer heat or servicing an HVAC system before it shifts from cooling to heating, property owners who take a few proactive steps now can make a huge difference in avoiding significant issues later. While many of these projects can be completed by those with the time, physical ability, and the right tools, other residents will likely require the expertise and help of a professional. Unfortunately, this opens the door for scammers and unethical businesses to steal from the public, fail to complete a project, use subpar materials that do not last, or other issues resulting from hiring an untrustworthy contractor.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) reminds property owners searching for professional help to stay aware of unethical contractors and thoroughly research a business before providing payment or signing a contract. A great place to start is on BBB.org, where consumers can access a business’s BBB profile to read consumer complaints, reviews, and the business’s responses to help make an informed decision about which contractor best suits their needs. Home and business owners can also gain greater peace of mind by searching for businesses that have promised to adhere to BBB’s Standards for Trust by looking for the BBB Accredited Business Seal.
With the fall season approaching, some of the most important things to evaluate on your home or business include:
Fall marks the transition from cooling to heating for air conditioning systems, and many residents only learn their heating system isn’t correctly operating once it kicks on for the first time after months of not being used. Having your HVAC system serviced can help ensure it operates as efficiently as possible, which can help residents save money on their energy bills. The beginning of fall is also a great time to check for cracks around doors and windows that can lead to drafts and higher energy bills during winter.
Roof Inspection and Repair
August through November is generally considered the peak time for hurricanes and damaging storms in Texas, and the state of your roof can make a significant difference in protecting homes and businesses. Having a trustworthy company inspect the roof can help property owners identify issues and prevent costly repairs after a major storm. Remember to have your gutters cleaned to avoid clogged leaves and debris from causing water damage or foundation problems.
Lawn and Landscaping
Sudden cold snaps can cause tree limbs to break, potentially causing damage to roofs, driveways, vehicles, or even people. Having a professional evaluate which limbs pose the most significant risk and removing them before they break can prevent costly repairs and keep everyone safe. Additionally, many lawns will need to be revitalized after another scorching Texas summer, and spending the time to aerate or fertilize during the fall can promote healthy growth come spring.
As temperatures drop, pests and rodents often seek warmth and shelter indoors, and homes, businesses, or sheds are prime locations for them to take residence. Professional pest control specialists can help install deterrents to make properties less appealing and seal entry points that various animals can use. Additionally, they can help prevent a termite or other infestation from growing out of control and causing substantial structural damage.
Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance
The warmth and ambiance of a crackling fireplace is a great way to take advantage of cooler temperatures, but it is always important to treat any controlled fire with caution. Scheduling a chimney inspection and cleaning can help avoid fire hazards and carbon monoxide leaks, keeping everyone safe from potential disasters.
How to avoid scams and unethical contractors
Receive at least three quotes. BBB strongly recommends that homeowners looking to contract services for any work receive at least three quotes from separate businesses before settling on a final decision. Obtaining multiple quotes gives homeowners a solid understanding of pricing and services and contributes to their ability to have an informed conversation with their chosen contractor about the project’s price. Homeowners who take the time to interview multiple companies before deciding who to contract can be confident that they are not overpaying for services.
Never pay the total project cost upfront. Even if the contractor offers a significant discount for paying the project’s full price upfront, BBB always recommends staggering payments throughout the length of the project. Staggering payments allow the homeowner to inspect the work at specific milestones, ensuring it is done to their satisfaction before releasing the next payment installment. Homeowners should avoid contractors practicing aggressive tactics or insisting on receiving full payment before beginning the project, and most deposits should range between 10-30% of the total project cost. Some contractors may require a more significant down payment due to the price of materials or another clearly communicated issue. Still, homeowners should avoid contractors who ask for more than half the total project cost upfront.
Understand licensing requirements. Depending on the type of work the homeowner wants, state or local regulatory agencies may require different licensing. In those industries that typically require licenses (electricians, HVAC, plumbers, pesticide applicators, etc.), spend the time to double-check that the license is valid with the applicable agency. The contractor should be forthcoming in describing exactly how the homeowner can verify the license is active. Keep in mind that the homeowner may be held liable for work completed by an unlicensed contractor that does not comply with building codes or results in property damage.
Be wary of ‘too good to be true’ deals. As is common in any marketplace transaction, critically evaluate any deal that seems too good to be true. Trust in your intuition and have a basic understanding of the standard cost of the project by receiving multiple quotes. Offering goods and services at steep discounts for a ‘limited time’ is a common tactic of scammers and con artists to encourage consumers to make immediate decisions before verifying the business’s or individual’s legitimacy.
For More Information
Better Business Bureau hosts an online resource center for homeowners to understand the various aspects of home ownership and improvement or repair projects at BBB.org/HomeHQ.
If you have experienced a home improvement scam or questionable business practices, report it to BBB Scam Tracker or file an official complaint online at BBB.org. Information provided may prevent another person from falling victim and help others make informed decisions when seeking contracting services.