Before doing any Home Improvements, always remember to
- Shop for a licensed contractor (check license status with the Consumer Protection Bureau).
- Check references (check with the Consumer Protection Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the contractor).
- Obtain and compare at least three written price estimates for exactly the work you want done.
- Get a contract! Make sure it includes all promises made, including a project start date and expected completion date.
- Negotiate only reasonable advance payments that are tied to completion of specific work.
- Make sure the contractor signs all papers and retain a copy for your records.
- e home while the work is in progress.
- Don’t sign a certificate of completion until the work is complete to your satisfaction.
- Understand that the law allows you three days to cancel a home improvement contract. Cancellation must be in writing.
For questions, or to file a complaint, please call our Consumer Help Line: (914) 377-3000.
Indications of Potential Home Improvement Scams
- The contractor engages in high pressure sales tactics, or contacts you by door-to-door sales or telemarketing.
bargains that appear to be “too good to be true”.
- The contractor’s references cannot be reached.
- There is no written contract, there are blank spaces in the contract you are asked to sign, or the contractor won’t put the promises made about the work to be done in the contract.
- The contract does not include a specified start date and completion date.
- The contractor asks for all or a substantial portion of the money up front.
- The contractor asks you to sign a statement indicating that the work is complete before you are fully satisfied that all work specified in the contract has been finished to your satisfaction.
Consumer Tips For Buying Gas
- Buy regular gasoline unless you car calls for a higher octane gas.
- Pay cash-- if a discount is offered for cash payment.
- Take advantage of the special "cents off" days.
- Watch the pump carefully and always make sure the pump starts at zero (0).
- Check your receipt carefully.
- Plan your trips around town carefully. More stops on a single trip means less total trips.
- If you have a disability and are unable to pump your own gas and the station offers both self serve and full serve prices, you are entitled to the self serve price. Certain restrictions apply.
- If you feel you have been cheated at the gas pump, file a complaint with this office.
In light of today’s high prices for home heating oil, here are a few tips to help winterize your house or apartment
- Remove and store any air-conditioning units. If you can’t remove it, clean the filter, cover the outside with an air conditioner cover and close vents.
- Clear obstacles from the heat registers. Move the sofa, pull back drapes and make sure registers are unobstructed. Use a vacuum attachment to clean dust and anything else that might be blocking registers. Buy an air deflector, an inexpensive device that attaches to a register, typically with magnets, if you must place a piece if furniture over a register.
- Make sure radiators are free of obstacles. To improve efficiency, put foil-covered cardboard between the radiator and wall, so you heat the room more than the walls.
- Close registers completely, and shut the door in a room that’s rarely used.
- Change or clean the furnace filter monthly.
- Maintain an indoor temperature of at least 65 degrees to prevent frozen pipes on frigid days; 68 degrees on the thermostat when you are home. People who aren’t elderly or sick still will feel comfortable.
- Put in a programmable thermostat to automatically turn down the heat when you don’t need it.
Install a carbon monoxide detector. It could save your life.
- Buy window coverings. Closing blinds and drapes at night keeps cold air out. Opening during the day when it is sunny helps heat the house.
- Tape up plastic sheeting, which comes in window insulation kits that you can install with your hair dryer, to seal out drafts if you don’t have storm or double-pane windows.
- holes and cracks around doors and windows, electrical outlets, entryways for plumbing and wiring, fireplace dampers and recessed lighting. Hardware stores sell outlet insulation kits.
- Wrap your water heater with an insulation blanket. Heating ducts and hot-water pipes also can be wrapped with insulation.
Consumer Protection Bureau Tips
- Before you hire a contractor, obtain a few written estimates from only licensed contractors (check w/ the CPB for license status). And, get a signed contract for all work to be performed!
- Beware of internet (and phone) scams. Never reveal any personal information such as login names/passwords, credit card or pin numbers.
- Shop around for low gas/home heating oil prices. Go to www.westchestergov.com to compare current prices in your area.
Prevent Identity Theft
A new state law effective on November 1st now permits individuals to “lock” up their credit files by putting a “freeze” on their credit reports. A security freeze blocks access to a credit report and can help prevent identity theft. For example, with a security freeze activated, a bank or credit card company would not be able to check your credit file, and therefore, would probably deny the application, preventing the imposter from stealing your identity and opening a line of credit in your name.
However, the same holds true if you wanted to apply for credit in your own name while your freeze is on. This means that you have to plan ahead for a wide variety of situations, such as credit and employment applications, as you will need to contact the credit reporting agencies to release the hold beforehand and authorize access to your personal information. Otherwise, your application will likely be denied. A security freeze may delay, interfere with or prohibit the timely approval of any application you have for a new loan, credit, mortgage, insurance, rental housing, employment, investment, license, cellular phone, utility hook-up, internet credit card transaction, or other services, including an extension of credit at the point of sale.
In order to place a freeze, you need to send a letter by certified or overnight mail to each of the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian), including personal identifying information such as complete name, address, date of birth and social security number. The freeze take effect within five business days of receipt of your letter by the credit reporting agencies [note: within four days of receipt as of January 1, 2008, and within three days of receipt as of January 1, 2009]. The freeze will remain on your credit file until you remove it. Within ten days of the freeze, the credit reporting agencies will send you written confirmation and a unique personal identification number or password to be used when providing authorization for the release of your credit report to a specific party or for a specific period of time. If you are a victim of identity theft, there is no fee to place a freeze. If you are a non-victim, there is no fee for the first freeze you place, but there is a $5 fee for a second freeze and for each subsequent freeze. Credit reporting agencies can still release your credit report to parties including existing creditors, law enforcement agencies and child support agencies.
Unless you have lifted the freeze for a specific party or for a specific period time, a credit reporting agency will not release your credit report. Therefore, a security freeze, unless lifted, may delay, interfere with or prohibit the timely approval of any request or application you make regarding a new loan, credit, mortgage, government services or payments, insurance, rental housing, employment, investment, license, cellular phone, utilities, internet credit card transaction, or other services, including an extension of credit at the point of sale.
Experian Security Freeze
PO Box 9554
Allen , TX 75013
TransUnion Security Freeze
PO Box 6790
Fullerton , CA 92834
Equifax Security Freeze
PO Box 105788
Atlanta , GA 30348