N.Y. (WETM) — With warm weather approaching, many New Yorkers have plans to start home improvement projects. According to the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP), home improvement scams have consistently ranked in the top five consumer complaints. To combat these scams, the DCP has released a guide.

The DCP recommends shopping around and getting multiple estimates (at least three) before committing to a contractor or handyman. Estimates should include details about the services to be provided and the materials to be used. Estimates should also include a timeline for the project.

You should also get and check references before hiring anyone to do work on your property. You can ask friends and neighbors for contractors they recommend and check online for contracting businesses with good reviews. You can also find contractor recommendations through local professional associations. Be sure to talk to any references potential contractors give you and talk to former customers. You should do this even if a trusted source recommended the contractor to you. When you talk to former customers, make sure you see pictures of the work they had done.

After you hire a contractor, the DCP says to make sure you get a written contract. The contract should include a price, timeline, and description of the work being done. Any changes to the contract should be made in writing. Keep in mind that you’ll have three days to cancel the contract after signing it, and if you do cancel it, this must be in writing. In addition to getting a contract, you also need to make sure you have all the required permits before work begins. Check with your local municipality for any relevant building codes and permit requirements. Make sure your contractor has all of the necessary permits.

Never pay the full price of the contracting work upfront. Instead, set up a payment schedule tied to completion of specific stages of the job. This payment schedule should be included in your contract. Wait to make the final payment until you do a final walkthrough and are satisfied with the work done. All required inspections and certificates of occupancy should be delivered before the final payment as well.

If you have any problems, try to solve them with your contractor. If you can’t solve the problem with your contractor, you can file a complaint with the Department of State.