LAKE CHARLES, La. — Homeowners whose property was damaged by Hurricane Laura can be taken advantage of by dishonest contractors, or third parties posing as contractors, who 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 a second time by falling prey to illegitimate contractors seeking to make money off your misfortune,” said Lee Ann Alexander, vice president of state government relations for APCIA. “Let your insurer verify what repairs are necessary before you sign any contracts, then find a licensed and reputable contractor to do the work.”
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 contractor you hire has liability and workers compensation insurance. Check with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors 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.
6. Never pay in full 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.