PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For those looking to make some home improvements this fall, the Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania has a warning.

Do your research.

“Fall is a popular time of year for many homeowners to think ahead and prepare for the upcoming winter season by completing necessary repairs or starting time-sensitive projects,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western Pa. “In many instances, consumers think they are getting a great deal, but fail to do their research and end up losing money to companies that do not fulfill their obligations.”

Lead Construction from Slippery Rock was recently investigated by the BBB over complaints from consumers that work on their homes were either never completed or never even started.

Consumers that hired Lead Construction also had complaints that they couldn’t reach the business for refunds.

This has led to Lead Construction receiving an F rating from the BBB for failing to respond to these complaints.

The BBB has six recommendations for consumers that are planning to hire contractors for home improvement this fall:

  • Verify their registration via the Home Improvement Protection Consumer Act. All contractors performing $5,000 or more in home improvements per year must be registered through the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Consumer Protection. This can be found at attorneygeneral.gov.
  • Compare costs. The BBB recommends getting at least three separate bids for the job. They remind consumers that the contractor with the lowest bid may not be the best contractor for the job.
  • Confirm the contractor’s insurance. When hiring a contractor to do home improvement work, they must have up-to-date insurance covering workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability. The BBB recommends asking for a current copy of an insurance certificate before the job begins.
  • Do not pay in full in advance. According to state law, a contract exceeding $5,000 requires the contractor to not accept a deposit in excess of 1/3 the contract price or 1/3 the contract price plus cost of materials. It is best to pay with a credit card and request receipts.
  • Read the entire contract. The law requires a contractor to provide the consumer with a copy of the contract at the time of signing. The BBB says if the consumer does not understand parts of the contract or if they are blank lines in the contract, do not sign it.
  • Be alert for red flags. The BBB warns of contractors claiming to have leftover materials from another job that will drive down costs, the pressure to sign contracts, or even claims that a contract isn’t necessary.
  • Anyone that believes they have been the victim of a home improvement scam can go to the Better Business Bureau’s website and file a claim at this link.