Earlier this month, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum released The Oregon Department of Justice’s annual list of Top Ten Consumer Complaints. In total, the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline received 36,000 phone calls and 6,500 consumer complaints during 2019. They also recovered more than $1.29 million for consumers and small businesses throughout the state. Over the course of the year, a few consistent offenders emerged and earned them the dubious distinction of being included in the annual list. Consumers everywhere should make their purchases carefully and guard against scams, especially in these uncertain times. However, investment property owners may be particularly susceptible.

The Top Ten Consumer Scams

The top ten sources of consumer complaints last year included:

  1. Telecommunications
  2. Imposter Scams
  3. Auto Sales & Repairs
  4. Financial Credit & Lending
  5. Medical Services
  6. Travel Service & Products
  7. Real Estate & Property Management
  8. Towing
  9. Construction Contractors
  10. Insurance

This year, construction contractors appeared in the list of top ten offenders for the first time. “For most people, the home you own in is your largest and most valuable investment. That’s why Oregon law requires contractors to be licensed, bonded, and insured,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. 

Investment Owners are Vulnerable to Contracting Scams

While investment property owners have many responsibilities, repair and maintenance tasks are always at the forefront. That means owners are continually searching for competent and trustworthy contractors that can handle everything from interior painting and carpet replacement to roofing, remodels, and more. Oregon law requires all contractors to be licensed, bonded, and insured. However, unethical contractors often skirt these requirements or lie to consumers outright. Here are a few of the most common contracting scams:

Too Much Money Up-Front

A classic signal of a contractor scam is when they ask for a significant portion of cash before the work begins. This amount could be 30-50% of the total cost of the job. When homeowners pay that much upfront, they’ve lost most of their leverage. The contractor could easily disappear without doing any of the actual work or do poor-quality work, knowing that the customer’s hands are tied. A good rule of thumb is to pay no more than 10% of the total project cost at the outset of the job.

No Outlined Scope-of-Work

Without a detailed scope of work prepared before construction begins, homeowners are vulnerable to unscrupulous contractors who might make promises they have no intention of keeping. Before you start any project, outline a complete scope of work that covers everything you expect to pay for. Then, include the price you and your contractor agreed upon. If things go south, you have a signed document to fall back on if necessary.

No Permit Applications

Unscrupulous or unlicensed contractors often tell consumers that it’s unnecessary to apply for building permits. Either because the work doesn’t qualify or because the project is indoors, so inspectors won’t notice. In most places, municipalities require permits for all home renovation projects. By insisting on following the law, you’ll weed out many bad actors.

Unforeseen Problems

Some bad contractors will bid jobs low to get work and then jack up prices in the middle of a project due to “unforeseen circumstances.” While problems do sometimes arise, homeowners must protect themselves by doing their due diligence. One way to accomplish this is by hiring a licensed home inspector who can offer an impartial opinion on any needed changes.

By watching out for this kind of suspicious behavior, investment owners can protect themselves during the repair and maintenance process.

Real Estate & Property Scams are Growing

We’ve written before about how consumers can fall for rental scams. However, property owners can also be vulnerable. Scammers often troll marketplaces like Craigslist for available homes and then put up fake listings looking to steal unsuspecting renter’s security and rental deposits. If you’re self-managing a rental property, it’s wise to do your research when marketing your property to ensure there are no copycat listings. If you do see your home featured in a false listing, flag it right away.

A Property Manager Can Help

Good property management companies can help their owners avoid contractor and real estate scams. For example, Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew works with a group of more than 100 vendors that we’ve vetted and trust to perform repair and maintenance work. If one of our owners ever needs work done on their home, we’re more than happy to provide a reference. That way, investment owners can avoid the risk and guesswork that comes from navigating the market themselves.

Also, because we’re a full-service property management company, our team takes the reins when it comes to marketing your home. We put our rental listings all over the web, including paid placements on real estate sites like Zillow and video walk-through on our YouTube channel. By controlling all aspects of property marketing, and by clearly stating the terms of our rental process, we introduce a level of quality-control that self-managing owners can’t match. That reduces their risk of falling victim to these kinds of scams.

Contact Us Today to Learn More

If you’d like to learn more about how Darla and her team can help manage your property, contact us today. You can call or text Darla directly at (503) 515-3170 or fill out the contact page on our website, and we’ll get back to you ASAP. It’s a challenging world out there, and a few bad actors are more than willing to take advantage of the unsuspecting. However, armed with the right information and teamed with a great partner, we can navigate the world together.