WASHINGTON - The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection is asking consumers to do their homework before signing any contracts for any home repair, tree work or home improvement.
"While we understand the urgency to have repairs done as quickly as possible, homeowners need to proceed with caution before signing any contracts, by verifying that the contractor is properly licensed and experienced," says Eric Friedman, director of the county's office of consumer protection.
First, Friedman suggests only hiring a contractor who is licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. Residents can check a contractor's licensing status by calling 410-230-6309 or by conducting a search on Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation website.
Tree repair companies also should be checked out before they start work. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division has an up-to-date list of licensed tree experts. The department can be reached at 410- 260-8521. Homeowners also can search tree experts.
Beyond checking out a contractor, Montgomery County suggests getting at least three estimates for the work. Some contractors overcharge consumers or lead them to believe the damage is worse, according to a county news release.
A home improvement contract should include both the terms and conditions of the warranty along with the contractor's name, address and license number. Make sure to get the start and finishing dates and a description of the work and materials to be used in the contract, Friedman says.
Contractors are permitted from collecting more than one-third of the contract amount for a deposit under state law. If the contract is signed in your home, the law requires the contract allow the consumer three days to cancel it.
Check out contractor's complaint records online with the county or call 240-777-3636.
Follow @WTOP on Twitter.
© 2013 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.