Home Repair Fraud
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Protecting yourself from home repair fraud is especially important following a natural disaster like a hurricane. By being careful, informed and prepared, Florida's seniors can prevent themselves from becoming victims.
It is important to remember the following tips when your home needs repairs. Before you choose a contractor, contact your local building department to determine:
- Licensing requirements
- If the contractor has a current and valid license, liability and worker's compensation insurance and is bonded
- Required permits and schedule of inspections
- If any complaints have been filed against the contractor
- If any other requirements or legal notices pertain to the job
Always require a written contract
- Ask contractors for customer references. Contact previous customers to see if they were satisfied with the cost and quality of work.
- Ask family, friends or neighbors for referrals to contractors who have done satisfactory work. Ask them to accompany you to any discussion that you might have with the contractor and while the work is being done.
- Provide a written, detailed description of the job
- Get several written estimates, which include a description of the job and itemized costs for labor, types and grades of materials and supplies, models, permits and cleanup
no matter how small the job. The contract should include:
- Contractor's name
- Business name and address, phone number and fax
- License number and type
- Insurance information with attached copies
- Payment and inspection schedule
- Job plans and specifications
- Specific types and grades of materials, do not accept, "or equivalent"
- Itemized total costs
- Warranties on materials and workmanship
- Start and completion dates
- Contractor's commitment to get all permits
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is never to pay cash.
Paying by check or money order provides a written record. If a contractor wants money in advance, you should consider paying the material supplier directly.
If you lose money because of a bad contractor, it will be difficult and costly, if not impossible to recover your money. You may even have to pay for the entire repair again. It is far better and easier to take the time to not become a victim.Additional Tips
- Never be pressured into making hasty decisions, they will only compound your problems.
- Learn how to protect yourself from liens against your home.
- Never accept an offer to take you to your bank to withdraw money for any reason.
- Never agree to get your own permits doing so will make you directly responsible for everything.
- An unlicensed "handyman" cannot legally perform any work valued at more than $1000 for the entire job. Seek the advice of your local governments' building department first.
- See "Government" section of your phonebook for local city or county building department.
- Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation: (850) 487-1395
- Florida Attorney General's Office Price Gouging Hotline: 1-800-646-0444
- Seniors vs. Crime Project: 1-800-203-3099
- Insurance information: 1-800-342-2762
- Contact your Local Sheriff's Office, Police Department or Local State Attorney to report fraud or a crime.
- Elder Helpline: 1-800-963-5337
- The Florida Bar: 1-800-342-8011
- Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-800-962-2873
Source: Elder Update November/December 2005 submitted by Ann Getman, Department of Elder Affairs