PHILADELPHIA — After Hurricane Isaias, homeowners whose property was damaged can fall victim a second time around when crooked contractors or third parties posing as contractors go door to door looking to capitalize on people in desperate need of repairs. While most contractors are legitimate, there are others who make false promises, demand full or partial payment up front and never start or finish the work.
“If you’ve already experienced damage from the storm, do not become a victim twice by falling prey to illegitimate contractors seeking to making money off of your situation,” said Kristina Baldwin, vice president of state government relations of APCIA. “If someone knocks on your door after a storm and tries to pressure you into signing a contract for repair work, turn them away.”
Seven Steps to Avoid Contractor Fraud & Abuse
1. Be alert and know the warning signs. Reputable contractors do not solicit business door to door. Watch out for people who try to pressure you into signing a contract and demand full or partial payment up front.
2. Contact your insurer. File your claim first and let your insurer verify what repairs are necessary before signing any contracts. Then find a licensed contractor to make the repairs.
3. Verify insurance and licenses. Make sure the contract you hire has liability and workers compensation insurance. Check with your state licensing board to be sure the contractor is licensed and bonded. Check to see if the contractor has a legitimate local address.
4. Get three bids and check references. Get three written estimates for the work and compare the bids. Require the contractor to provide you with references and contact those references to verify the work was done on time and up to code.
5. Check for complaints. Check your local Better Business Bureau or your state attorney general to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor.
6. Never pay upfront. Pay for the work in installments as the job is completed. Do not pay with cash; use a check or credit card instead so that you have a record of payment. Verify that the work was done before paying the invoices.
7. Get a written contract. Always get a written contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do, including prices for labor and materials. Make sure the contract includes clean-up procedures and estimated start and finish dates. Never sign a contract with blanks that can be filled in later by the contractor.
APCIA insurance experts are available for interviews and to answer questions. Contact Sarah Revell for more information at 850-879-1853 or Sarah.Revell@apci.org.