TAKING ACTION: Protecting you from home renovations, tree service scams

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -  With Spring just around the corner, it's a busy time for home repair and tree service companies. But, not all of them do honest work. Before you agree to let a company work on your home or backyard, do your homework.

"Get references from that particular company; look to see if they have a business license," Better Business Bureau's Elizabeth Garcia said. "They should be able to produce that for you."

Ask the company for a business card or the option of a written contract.

"Any business owner should be able to provide those kinds of things to you," Garcia said.

The Better Business Bureau offers a quick and easy way to check for any information on a specific organization.

"You can always find a lot of information just taking time to do a little internet research," Garcia said.

Before you sign on the dotted line, ask the company for names of people who hired them in the past.

"That person should be able to provide you with references so that you have an opportunity to call those people and find out about the company," Garcia said.

When you've decided to go with a company, look closely at the contract.

"Make sure that it's spelled out clearly what that business is going to do for you," Garcia said. "Make sure it's written out in the contract, not just verbal. Be sure you have all of those items in the contract before you sign the contract."

If you're hiring for an expensive job, make sure the company is legally allowed to do the work.

"If a company does more than $10,000 worth of renovations or home improvements on your home, they have to be licensed by the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board," Garcia said. "If they're not, they're not legally allowed to perform that work for you."

The Better Business Bureau says a good thing to remember is pay the company you hire a third up front, a third half way through the project and a final third once the project is complete. Just because a person asks you to pay a little up front, that's not necessarily indication of a scam. Sometimes companies may need a little money upfront to buy materials, but be skeptical if the company wants you to pay in full.