When the hurricane is gone, you can be forgiven for thinking that the worst might be over. You have your homeowner’s insurance policy and you have your flood insurance policy. You are a conscientious homeowner who has taken pains to make sure that you are covered for any eventuality. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer is, “Quite a lot.”
We’ve covered assignment of benefits fraud extensively, but there are other hazards that you need to watch out for. It’s very easy in the aftermath of a natural disaster to simply want your home back, and have it be in good repair and livable condition. Scammers prey on that need, and on people who may be ignorant of how to hire a contractor, and what a contractor should and should not do.
- Check to see if the contractor is licensed with the state of Florida. All contractors in Florida must be licensed in order to work in the state.
- Ask for proof of insurance for general liability and workers compensation. If your contractor cannot produce proof of insurance, that could leave you liable for injuries or property damages that occur on the job.
- Ask for a list of references, and call them. Ask if they would hire this contractor again, and how they would rate the work on a scale of 1 to 10. Also ask if the job site was kept clean, and if it was completed on time and within budget.
- Meet the site supervisor, and the members of the crew. Always have a contact name and number to use if the supervisor is not available.
- Ask to visit a site where work is in progress.
- Do not be pressured into making an immediate decision, or signing a contract. Yes, contractors are in demand after any natural disaster. However, this guy is not the only show in town.
- Don’t deal with a contractor who will only accept cash, or who demands payment upfront. Likewise, be wary if the contractor insists that you deal with his lender, instead of your own.
- Never deal with a contractor who cannot provide you with a permanent business address, or answer the question, “How long has your firm been in business?”
- Don’t believe anyone who assures you that the homeowner typically gets the permits for any job, not the contractor.
- Don’t believe offers that are too good to be true. Terms like “free” and “cheap” may not be on the bill, but you will end up paying for them.
Your First Call Should Be to Your Insurance Company
We understand that the temptation to deal with the first contractor who turns up can be overwhelming, but your first call needs to be to your insurance company. Getting a claims adjuster out there will give you an idea of what really needs to be done. Claims adjusters have the experience to separate building fact from contractor’s fiction.