Need Hurricane Repairs? Avoid Contractor FraudPosted on: September 15, 2021
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Take steps to protect yourself when you hire someone to repair your home. Avoid fraud, scams, sloppy repairs or repairs paid for and not done.
Get important information before you hire anyone.
Make sure the information you get is true. To start off, get information about every contractor, repair company, or repair person.
Full business name.
Full business address.
Business phone number.
Make sure the company or person is really at the address given to you.
Find out if the company is a licensed Louisiana contractor.
Ask for the company’s Louisiana Contractor License information. Make sure the information is true.
You can find out if a company is a Louisiana licensed repair contractor. The free mobile app called "La. Contractor” can help. You can use the website for the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors. https://lslbc.louisiana.gov. The site’s contractor search tool can help. You can call The Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors: (800) 256-1392.
Get the company’s insurance information.
Get a copy of the company’s proof of liability insurance.
Call the insurance company to make sure the company really has insurance.
Get a copy of the company’s workers compensation insurance information.
Get company business information from the Louisiana Secretary of State
Find out how long the repair company or person has been in business under its current name. Sometimes contractors switch names or use new names to run away from problems.
The website of the Louisiana Secretary of State can tell you if the business is in good standing with the state, and other business information.
Here is the website where you can look up a business listed with the Louisiana Secretary of State: https://coraweb.sos.la.gov/CommercialSearch/CommercialSearch.aspx. Or you can call (800) 256-1392.
Get references from people who used the same company for repairs.
Get at least 3 references for the repair company or repair person’s work.
Talk with the company’s other customers.
Look at the work the company did for those customers.
Find out what people thought of the repair work and the repair company.
See reviews and other information. You can look at the site of The Better Business Bureau. That site has reviews on home contractors.
Get written estimates.
Get at least three detailed estimates in writing. The estimates should be dated and signed by someone with power to do so from the company.
Don’t take estimates over the phone.
Warning: watch out for very low estimates.
A very low estimate may be a scam. The company may try to do something called “bait-and-switch.” The company may try to push up the price after you agree to the repairs.
Make sure each estimate you get covers the same repair work
All estimates should have start date and an end date for the repairs.
All repair work should be listed with the cost for each task and the total price for all the repair work to be done.
Make sure every repair you want is listed on the estimate.
If a repair is not listed on the estimate you may not be able to make the contractor do that repair for the price given to you. Example: the contractor does not have to put crown molding back in unless the contract says it.
Example: if you expect a certain kind of flooring or tile, the kind of flooring or tile must be listed in writing in the document.
Warning! Be wary of contractors reaching out to you to try to get work. Resist high-pressure sales.
Take your time.
Review all estimates before you make your decision.
You may be worried that it will be hard to find a contractor after the hurricane.
You must still be careful when hiring a company or person for repairs.
Warning! Some repair people or companies try to do bigger jobs than they usually do because the hurricane created so much repair work.
Some smaller or less experienced repair companies and repair people are trying to get big repair jobs. Some repair companies could not normally get large contracting jobs.
Some companies and people are just out to steal other people’s money.
Other repair companies and repair people may be well-meaning, but they do not have the experience to do hurricane repairs. These companies may get in over their heads. They may promise to work for too many people.
Get a contract in writing.
You and the contractor should sign and date the contract.
Make sure the contract clearly states the price.
Make sure the contractor clearly says exactly what work is to be done.
Make sure the contract clearly says whether the contract covers materials as well as labor.
Make sure the contract says who will do the work.
Make sure the contract says the amount of liability insurance coverage the contractor has.
Make sure the contract gives a time frame for the work, or says when the work will start and when the work will be finished. (See the note about deadlines below.)
Keep a signed, clear copy of the contract in a safe place.
Know about deadlines.
It is hard to make a contractor meet a time deadline in the contract, unless the contract includes penalties for late work. Most contractors will not agree to put penalties for missing deadlines in a contract.
If you are counting on repairs being finished by a certain date, put that date in the contract and the reason for that date.
Example: you need the repairs to be complete by the date because you must pay rent somewhere else until you can move back.
The contract must say who is responsible for getting required permits to do the work. If the contractor will be getting the required city permits, the contract needs to say that.
Be careful when paying.
Do not pay for the job in advance.
Never pay for most of the job or the whole job ahead of time.
Be wary of any contractor who wants full payment or half payment in advance or before starting. A reputable contractor will not require a down payment over 10 to 25 percent of the total price.
Insist that payments be made to the company, not to an individual.
Get official receipts on company documents for every payment you make.
One payment option is to pay by credit card. Paying by credit card may give you with added protection if there’s a problem.
If you use a credit card, make sure you can pay your credit card bill. Avoid running up your credit card bill. There is interest on credit card bills. That makes the payments bigger.
Never pay with cash.
Know your rights and responsibilities.
Make sure you know if your homeowner’s insurance policy or your flood insurance policy that will pay for the repairs covers falls or injuries to contractors.
Check with your city officials to see what permits contractors will need to work on your property. Make sure your permits are filed. Make sure your permits are posted correctly on your property before work starts on your home.
Take pictures of home damage before repair work starts.
Take pictures during repairs.
Take pictures of your contractors. Take pictures of the contractors workers. Get pictures of the contractor and worker vehicle license plates.
Save the photos in a secure location.
Keep detailed notes of all conversations about work changes, cost overruns, and so on. Keep copies of all emails.
If you believe that you have been defrauded:
Keep all receipts, contracts, estimates, work orders, and so on for the work in question.
Take photos of how the contractor left the work. Keep any photos from before they started work.
File a police report and keep a copy of it.
File a complaint with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at https://lslbc.louisiana.govor call (800) 256-1392.
For another great resource on these issues please visit: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0242-hiring-contractor