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Stories

When your chimney sweep is blowing smoke

As the summer season winds down to a close, homeowners begin thinking about getting their houses ready for our long New England winters.

Many of our homes have chimneys, and chimneys need to be cleaned and repaired, which often means hiring a contractor or two. As with other home repair and improvement needs, con artists are known for scamming homeowners into purchasing substandard work with potentially dangerous results that cost more money to repair or even paying for services that never take place.

How to avoid home repair scams

You can learn how to identify these con artists and avoid falling victim to their sly tactics. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation (OCABR) offers several tips for hiring someone to clean or repair your chimney.

  • Be cautious of any company that solicits your business, especially if they pressure you to begin work immediately.
  • Seek referrals from those you trust and obtain quotes for the job from multiple businesses.
  • For all companies you consider, ask for identification, company literature and history, a copy of their standard contract, references (don’t forget to call those listed and visit the locations of the work), liability insurance and warranty information, and photo or video proof of their recommended repairs.
  • Check the company’s Better Business Bureau listing and history of complaints with the Office of the Attorney General, accreditation with the Chimney Safety Institute of America (recommended by fire departments), registration as a home improvement contractor at mass.gov/ocabr or by calling 888-283-3757, and license as a construction supervisor at mass.gov/eopss/agencies/dps or by calling 617-727-3200.
  • Consider hiring a local company to make any needed follow-up easy.
  • Check with your town’s building inspector regarding any needed permitting requirements.

You can become a home improvement-savvy homeowner by learning about other tips, laws, scams, and more at mass.gov/homeimprovement.