Your Brother-in-Law Could Do the Repairs…But What if Something Goes Wrong?

The crocuses and daffodils are up, trees are beginning to bud, and birds are reappearing; it feels like spring.

By Catherine Blinder

If you own a home, you know that spring is also the time to make sure that any winter damage from wind, rain, and snow - fallen branches, missing roof tiles, clogged gutters, windows that aren’t sealed correctly, stairs that could use some work, making sure the AC units are working, changing heating and cooling filters –should be assessed and you should plan for repairs.

You are fortunate if you or someone in your home is handy and can handle many of the smaller repairs and upkeep. But for the larger repairs, you will probably need to hire a home improvement contractor. And they should be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection.

Honest professionals follow the law and do what is required to do business in the state. They will be able to provide you with their registration number and should have a sign on their truck or a business card. They will not be calling or visiting to offer their services. They will have a phone number and probably a website.

Sometimes, scammers represent themselves as professionals, but they are not. They will go door-to-door telling you that they have just completed a job in your neighborhood and have “leftover roof tiles,” or extra material “to fix the holes in your driveway,” or will “give you the deal of a lifetime on new windows” if only you first give them a down payment.

These people are professionals. Professional scam artists. Professional criminals. Don’t believe anyone who offers you an unexpected bargain going door-to-door. Or calls you out of the blue to offer a service that is only “on sale today”.

They are often very convincing and have a lot of experience knowing how to emotionally lure you into believing them.

There are a few key things to watch for if faced with someone offering you an unrequested service or product:

  • They will always contact you unexpectedly.
  • They will ask you to pay in a specific way - cash, cryptocurrency, gift card, or some other kind of money transfer.
  • They will create a sense of urgency. Telling you the deal is only good NOW.
  • They will appeal to your emotions and make you feel like they are only offering this special offer to you.
  • They will be short on details about the project or service they are offering.

Tell them that you need to take some time to think about it. Never make a decision if you are being pressured; a real professional will give you all the time and information you need.

Take a breath, be calm, and talk to others about it. Sometimes, scammers go through a neighborhood to find the one person who says yes. Be the neighborhood hero and alert others to the scam.

Now that you know how to spot the scammers, you can set about finding an experienced and registered home improvement contractor!

Home improvement work is being done on one of your most important assets; mistakes can be costly and cause stress.

  • Ask family and friends for a referral.
  • Talk to at least three potential contractors to provide an estimate.
  • Check references, and then interview them.
  • Ask for phone numbers of recent clients.
  • Don't choose a contractor based only on the lowest estimate. References and recommendations from others will tell you about dependability and integrity, which are as important as price.
  • Show them the area where work is needed; describe the job clearly.
  • Ask for a current copy of the contractor's worker’s compensation and liability insurance policies and verify that they are active.  Home improvement contractors must obtain general liability insurance of no less than $20,000.
  • Call us to verify their registration at 860-713-6110 or toll-free at 1-800-842-2649, or visit You can also inquire if a contractor has complaints against them.

When you have decided on one, ask them to give you a written estimate or bid within a few days.

Once you have decided on a contractor and have signed a contract you have carefully read and understand, discuss a payment schedule, and be sure you are both in agreement, as you will be including it in your contract. We strongly suggest a three-part payment schedule – one payment before a job starts, one in the middle of the process, and the final payment once the job is done and you are satisfied with the work.

Once you have signed the contract, you have three days in which to change your mind.

Congratulations! You have successfully done your research, negotiated an agreement, and are on your way to making the improvements you need.

Despite your best work and intention, sometimes a contractor doesn’t live up to their promises, leaving shoddy and unacceptable work or disappearing before the project is done.

The Department of Consumer Protection maintains the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund. This fund was created and is replenished by fees from registered contractors. A homeowner may be eligible for up to $25,000 from the Fund if they had hired a registered home improvement contractor and the resulting problem meets certain criteria. For detailed information about the fund go to:

If consumers have complaints regarding a Home Improvement Contractor, the best way to file with DCP is to fill out the complaint form available at and email it along with any other helpful information such as contracts, receipts, permits, and accounts of your conversations with your contractor to

As always, Pass It On to family and friends. And happy spring!

This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at