Let’s be frank: legitimate plumbing work isn’t cheap. Equipment, training, licensing, and fair wages can add up, which is why even simple plumbing jobs typically cost a few hundred dollars.
The problem is that there are plenty of illegitimate plumbers who try to charge the same rates, or even higher. These plumbers may leave you without protection if they botch a job, or try to quickly inflate their low starting rates, or cut corners and leave you with solutions that won’t last as long as advertised.
The good news is that it’s easy to spot and shut down these plumbing scams, if you know what to look for. Here are some of the most common plumbing scams in the US and how to avoid them.
The Most Common Plumbing Scams
1. The Bait & switch
This popular scam involves the plumber telling you that they’re giving you the very best plumbing fixtures, etc. and the truth is that they’re purchasing a product that is lower-cost and inferior. They then will pocket the difference. Another thing that they might do is use materials that are expensive but jack up the price a lot more.
2. Plumbers Going Door to Door
This scam can be spotted easily when there is someone who claims to be a legitimate plumber knocking on your front door. They’re not plumbers. However, they are trying to get into the house and scam you out of lots of money. Or worse, they might be trying to rob you or case out your house.
3. Withholding Information
Respectable plumbers won’t have any problem giving you things such as their license number, business cards, and credentials when you are asking for them. If the plumber you’re considering seems somewhat reluctant to give you these things, it’s possible they don’t have the proper licensing. You can check out the information about a plumber’s license online. Another huge red flag is jobs that are cash only and payments that are made under the table. You also should be wary if someone doesn’t give you a written receipt. A lot of times this will mean that they’re not carrying any insurance or paying taxes.
Something else to watch for is the plumber requesting 25-50% upfront. This is a very common scam. The majority of states prohibit a plumber from asking for a deposit of more than 10%. If they request a higher deposit, it’s possible they’re going to take your money and vanish.
4. Too Many People Show Up
You need a plumber. You hired one. But during the week there are a lot of different people coming in. You don’t know what they’re doing. One might be an apprentice, which is not uncommon. However, they shouldn’t be doing it on their own.
In order to spot this scam, you want to look for a couple of things.
- Sometimes a plumber subcontract parts of a job to friends or family and then claim they can’t control what they are charging when the bill is written.
- If you have 3 plumbers in your home for a simple job, it’s possible that you are going to have to pay 3 different rates for them.
5. Increasing Prices for Rich Neighborhoods
Many bad plumbers charge more when they see you are living in a huge house or have an expensive car. Speaking to your neighbors is the best way to find a plumber that charges fairly in your neighborhood, but you can also request estimates from several different companies to give you a better feel for fair market rates.
6. The Estimate is Always Changing
There are a few ways that this can work. Sometimes they are going to say they’ll come back with an estimate. Sometimes they are going to give you a really cheap estimate over the phone, and they’ll promise to put it in writing. After the work’s started they don’t give you the promised estimate. Once the work is completed, the price goes up to double or triple what it was.
- Shady plumbers also might give you a quote without doing an inspection. An estimate that you get over the phone is just that – the estimate. Only doing inspections can really give you the price that is going to be close to what it is.
- The U-turn is another version. They’re halfway through your project and suddenly your contract will change or there is other work that needs to be done. They may have given you a low quote for your work. But they will charge high fees when there are more jobs that come up.
7. Accidentally Betting the House
You’ve probably heard of HELOC loans. These loans allow you to borrow against your home, accessing significantly more funds as a result.
But according to the FTC, an increasingly common scam is for contractors to present a HELOC loan as a conventional loan. This allows them to perform significantly larger jobs (or steal significantly more money) while exposing you to additional risk that you did not sign up for.
How to Avoid Plumbing Scams
Now that you know of the scams that you may come across, below are some of the things that you can do to protect yourself.
- Know the plumber — You should always ask right upfront for your plumber’s license to make sure they’re a journeyman or tradesman in your state. You also should do some research on your plumber online. Viewing their website, reviews, and rating with the BBB is a good place to start.
- Get Everything in Writing – You should make sure they’re coming by your house in person to do the inspection and get everything in writing. If there isn’t a contract in writing, there isn’t going to be any legal standing if there are problems.
- Make Sure They Write Down the Equipment – Do some research at your hardware store or online and compare prices to the list the plumber gives you. Double-check the common items, such as washers for any kind of markup. You can sometimes negotiate prices down, even after the job, if prices are completely out of line.
- Find Out the Number of People Working – You also can ask which of them are going to do what. If the repair is simple, you shouldn’t be seeing more than one person. So, double-check if something seems strange. If your job is going to need multiple plumbers, find out the hourly rate for each, since they could be different.
- Ask Questions – if the plumber wants your business, they’ll be glad to answer them.
- Choose a Plumber Before you Need One – A good way to avoid scams is to choose a plumber before you need one. This gives you the time to research them without worrying about being scammed when you have an emergency.
We hope that you found this to be useful. The next time that you use a plumber, you want to remember these scams and the tips on how to avoid them. It will make things a lot better for you and your house. And if you’re looking for a plumbing company in Concord, please consider calling us!