It's nice outside and that means it is time for yard work, whether you're looking to spruce up the yard, furbish the exterior of the home or something else.

If you're looking to have someone come in and do the work for you this year be sure to stay alert to scams and shady contractors.

Hazlet Township Police say that this is the time of year that they get reports of residents getting scammed by unscrupulous contractors who’ve already started the work.

Before you hire anyone, Hazlet Police ask that you take a look at these tips to keep yourself from being victimized.

  • Make sure to get recommendations. Avoid contractors that contact you unsolicited. Don’t hire a contractor based solely on an ad in a local newspaper, even if you’re offered a big discount or another incentive. Get recommendations from friends, neighbors, or relatives.
  • See what others are saying. Before hiring a contractor, check his or her work history with your state consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau. Search the Web using the company or individual’s name and such words as “reviews” and “complaints.”
  • Check credentials. Verify with your state that the contractor has the required license or registration. Some states have funds that reimburse consumers who obtain judgments against licensed contractors.
  • Know your rights. Some states give consumers three days or so to cancel home-improvement contracts. Under federal law you have three days to cancel most contracts that are signed in your home or outside the contractor’s regular place of business.
  • Get everything in writing. Don’t rely on spoken promises. Demand a written contract.

In addition here are some red flags of a possible home improvement scam.

  • He just happens to be in the area. He knocks on your door and says he can offer you a great deal because he’s working nearby and has leftover material. It’s a ruse.
  • The deal is good "today only". He says you must act immediately to get his special offer. Don’t let him muscle you into making a decision without doing your homework.
  • You're told your safety is at risk. He creates a sense of urgency by saying you may be in danger unless he makes immediate repairs. Contact authorities if you have concerns.
  • You have to pay up front. He demands you pay a substantial amount before work commences. It’s a sign that he’s out to rip you off or that he’s in financial trouble and has no credit to buy supplies. It may be acceptable to give a deposit of up to 10% to get on their schedule but never more than that.
  • He lacks professionalism. He’s hard to reach: He has no address, his vehicle is unmarked, and there’s no info on him at the Better Business Bureau, or anywhere.

Stay safe and remember these key tips as you get your yard ready for spring and summer.

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