01/10/2018 12:43 EST | Updated 01/10/2018 15:54 EST

Homeowners Aren't Doing Their Research Before Hiring A Contractor: Survey

There's a lot of information you should request before signing anything.

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Home improvement scams can be devastating, but Canadian homeowners aren't doing their homework when it comes to hiring contractors, according to a new survey.

Almost 70 per cent of the home renovation contractors surveyed by TrustedPros, a directory for contractors, said their clients didn't do enough research or due diligence.

Nearly three quarters said they weren't asked to show their skilled trade licenses.

Of the 74 per cent who weren't asked, 20 per cent said they needed a license to do their job, while 54 per cent said they didn't.

Nearly 400contractors were surveyed, including plumbers, electricians, landscapers, tilers, HVAC specialists and roofers.

Not all of those professions require qualifications, depending on your province or territory, but Nicole Silver, public relations and digital marketing specialist at TrustedPros, told HuffPost Canada that consumers don't usually know which trades require them and which ones do not.

From my experience, diplomas, licenses, and certificates are not enough to prove that a contractor does a good job and provides good customer service."Alberta carpenter

There's also a gap between commercial and residential clients. Contractors who do work for both told TrustedPros that nearly all of their commercial customers ask for licenses while zero of their residential customers do.

If the trade requires a license, you should ask the contractor for their license number and check it with the province's regulatory board, TrustedPros says. The company also recommends you ask for and verify that they have liability and worker's compensation insurance.

But just because someone is licensed and insured, doesn't mean they're competent or honest.

One Alberta carpenter told TrustedPros that consumers should ask to see a portfolio, which includes photos, details of previous jobs, references and reviews.

"From my experience, diplomas, licenses, and certificates are not enough to prove that a contractor does a good job and provides good customer service," they said.

Homeowners can also look at their ratings from clients on sites like TrustedPros or Homestars.

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Consumer Protection Ontario told CHCH in 2015 that these types of scams generate a large proportion of the complaints that the province's consumer services ministry receives.

One homeowner told the Hamilton outlet that he was bilked out of $8,500 after he and several neighbours paid a man for concrete work that the man either never finished or never started.

Scammers may show up at your door unannounced, offering a great deal or saying they've been sent by your hydro company or other utility, according to Insurance Hotline. They may also approach you warning that there's something seriously wrong with your home. No reputable company would just show up unless you contacted them first, the site says. If the person claims to represent your insurer, ask to see their ID.

You should never hand over money in advance either.

"Fraudsters often see the elderly or those living alone as easy targets for this type of crime, but we should all take action to educate ourselves on how we can prevent frauds and scams," Chatham-Kent police Const. Renee Cowell told the Chatham Daily News in 2016.

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