Dorian, Michael, Irma, Wilma, Dennis, Jeanne, and many other hurricanes have struck Florida and collectively caused millions of dollars in damages. If you were affected by a disaster by any of them, and you had insurance, the chances are that your insurance company paid for the repairs. But what happens when you don’t have insurance? Or when you decide to hire a contractor to fix something minor? If you’re lucky, you go back to everyday life while your contractors handle the problem, but if you’re not, the contractor takes your money never to be seen again. Even if they do show up, it’s possible that they do the work incorrectly and possibly cost you thousands more in repairs.
Fortunately, there are new laws in Florida that can protect you against Contractor Fraud – NBC Miami has a great piece on how this new law can affect you.
Every time there is a major disaster, contractors storm into the area ready to “assist” victims with affordable repairs and insurance adjusting services. Some contractors simply take “retainers” and never show up to do the work, and if they do show up, the work can jeopardize the safety of your home, or cost you thousands of dollars more in additional repairs. Others inflate the cost of the repair to get as much money in their pockets as possible.
Because of how easy it is for a company to setup a website, create a fake business name, and printout fake business cards, homeowners need to pay close attention to who they’re working with. Here are five tips to keep in mind as you start to deal with home repair contractors.
- See if the contractor is registered as a business in the State of Florida. You need to verify the contractor has a state license. If you’re unsure, you can always contact the Department of Business & Professional Regulation in Florida.
- Look up out of state licenses – if the contractor is out of state, try to get their license verified. It’s not rare for contractors to drive out to a neighboring state, this shouldn’t discourage you from working with them, but make sure you verify their license information. If you don’t know how this is done, we can help.
- Search for the company online. How long has their company been online? Do they have reviews? How old are the reviews? Has anyone complained about them in the past? Check to see if the owner of the company has a public presence – do they belong to a chamber? Do they have a business listing in the BBB? If they are a legitimate company, you should be able to find reviews and verifiable contact information.
- Contact your insurance company. If a contractor shows up to your home, it would be best to check with your insurance company. Most insurance companies have contractors that they prefer to use.
- Have a professional investigator check their company. We work with insurance companies and homeowners to verify the contractor’s information. We’ll provide you a report with our findings, and help you make a good and educated decision.
Dealing with the aftermath of a disaster is stressful enough but dealing with the aftermath of a botched repair by a fraudulent contractor can be worse. People have lost their homes, paid inflated prices for basic repairs, and caused more damage to their home than they intended.
By taking the time to verify your contractor is legitimate – before you sign a contractor or pay for a retainer – you can save your money, time, and home. At the end of the day, remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Give us a call, our team of can help vet your contractor. We always work with your best interest in mind – especially, in times of need.