Hurricane Sandy is estimated as one of the most costly hurricanes in US history; leaving hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses severely damaged due to flooding and gale force winds. The sad reality is that deceitful contractors will take advantage of disasters like this to scam the victims.
There will no doubt be a flood of fraudulent contractor’s rushing towards disaster areas to cash in on the hurricane victims. We can learn from past disaster’s, as ’charity’ scams were rampant here in the U.S. after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. If you’re planning on hiring a contractor to repair property damage, there are ways to prevent hiring a scam artist:
• Never pay a contractor upfront/in full
• Do not pay cash
• Avoid door to door offers
• It’s paramount that you ensure the contractor is licensed
“After severe weather, homeowners trying to make repairs can be vulnerable to con artists,” cautions the Virginia Board for Contractors spokesperson Mary Broz Vaughan. “Consumers can best protect themselves by checking for a valid contractor’s license, insisting on a detailed written contract, and never paying in full up front.”
Licensed contractors have the necessary training to perform in their specified field. They are regulated by the state or municipality, and many need a contractor license surety bond to obtain their license. The bond protects you from scams or faulty work by guaranteeing they will comply with the law. Unlicensed contractors can get away with committing fraud because they aren’t regulated by any government department and are off the radar.
“We know from past experience that fly-by-night contractors who are incompetent, dishonest, or both, will descend upon the storm-affected areas in the coming days and weeks, seeking to capitalize on those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday. “Consumers must be extremely wary and do their due diligence before they hire anyone, sign any contract, or pay any money for home repair.”
Should you find a contractor that advertises that they are “licensed and bonded”, don’t take their word for it. Some contractors will say they are licensed when they really aren’t just to appear legitimate and bring in additional business. To avoid dishonest contractors, you can use our contractor license tool and confirm whether a contractor is licensed. Using the dropdown menu below the video, select your state/municipality and the type of contractor you want to verify and click the “Go!” button. Doing so will provide you the government licensing department you will need to contact in order to confirm that they are truly licensed.
If your property was damaged in the storm, keep in mind there are corrupt contractors out there looking to benefit from your loss. The importance of researching and finding a licensed and legitimate contractor is vital to starting your recovery process.