There is always a lot of repairing and rebuilding after a major hurricane makes landfall in Florida. Unfortunately, good contractors are going to be busy after a hurricane hits and some unscrupulous contractors will seize this opportunity to capitalize on others’ misfortunes. Some untrustworthy contractors will even manipulate the price to cover your deductible or extra work not caused by the storm. While that type of insurance fraud is considered a felony, it still happens far too often.
So how can you avoid contractor fraud after a hurricane causes damage to your property? Read on for tips on how not to get taken.
Do Your Research
Be wary of solicitors. Scam artists will usually come to you to offer their services. They may just show up at your door, call you on your phone or even email you. Never give out personal information and always ask for identification. Before settling with any contractor, get estimates from several companies. Always ask for references from past customers and check out the names they give you.
Is the Contractor Licensed and Insured?
Make sure that the contractor has the proper licensing, that it is up-to-date, and that they are bonded. You can verify a license at www.MyFloridaLicense.com. Some Counties have a separate licensing requirement. Be sure they are licensed in your County.
You should also verify that the contractor has disability and workers’ compensation insurance. If the contractor doesn’t have these types of insurance, you could be liable for accidents on your property.
Document All Interactions with the Contractor
Should a discrepancy arise, having every communication fully documented will go a long way in proving your case. Make sure you always ask for the name of the person you are speaking with and note the time, date, and detailed notes about what was discussed.
We also suggest that you take a photo of your contractor or their driver’s license, vehicle, and license plate. A legitimate contractor should not mind this request.
Get Agreements in Writing
Be sure to read the contract fully. If you don’t understand something, take it to an expert to get a complete understanding. The contractor should go over all the work to be performed, a cost breakdown, a projected completion date, and how changes and disputes will be settled. Never sign a contract with blank spaces that could be filled in later without your knowledge and consent.
Do Not Pay in Full Up Front
Most contractors will require a fair down payment, but you should never pay in full up front, and do not pay in cash. Also, never wire money or use reloadable debit or gift cards. Use a check or major credit card so that you have a record of the payment.
Get Help if You Need It
Living through a hurricane disaster can be a traumatic experience. It becomes even more devastating if you fall prey to a scammer. I’m Rob Robinson, and I want to help protect you from contractor fraud. If you are unsure about contract wording, or just want to run the contract by someone with legal experience in these matters, please don’t hesitate to contact my office. I am here to meet your needs and exceed your expectations.