If your home has been damaged by Hurricane Isaac, you are probably in the market for a reputable contractor. However, not all of those who may claim to be able to repair your home are legitimate. Contractor fraud scams can add to the devastation experienced by homeowners in the aftermath of a natural disaster. If you believe you are being scammed or are being defrauded by a contractor, contact your local law enforcement agency, your local district attorney, the Louisiana Licensing Board for Contractors, or the Louisiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
You will want your home repaired as quickly as possible, but it pays to take the time to do some research to ensure you are working with one of Louisiana’s qualified contractors. If you are in the market for home repairs following Hurricane Isaac, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell offers the following tips to avoid contractor fraud:
• Get at least three bids. Be certain each contractor bids on exactly the same work. If one contractor bids on more work than others, make a note of it. All bids should be itemized and detailed.
• Know who you are dealing with. Get the name of the contractor’s insurer and bonding company. Find out the contractor’s address and verify it. Call the bonding company and verify that the contractor is insured and for what amount. Ask for references and inspect work done for previous customers when possible. Make sure the contractor is licensed through The Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors. You can search registered contractors by visiting their website, www.lslbc.louisiana.gov.
• Do not agree to a large down payment. A reputable contractor can usually charge building materials and does not normally require a large down payment. Where a down payment is required, it should not exceed 10% to 25% of the total price. Better yet, accompany the contractor to the building supply store and pay the store for the materials yourself. Have the materials delivered directly to your home/jobsite rather than the contractor’s shop.
• Be specific. Specify in the contract a beginning and completion date, exact description of work to be done, total cost of job, exact schedule for payment and warranty or guarantee that can be expected. Have samples, model numbers, pictures or anything else that will show the contractor exactly what you want. If you don’t specify the quality of materials in the contract, you are leaving it up to the contractor to decide what material will be used.
• Get a guarantee and a contract in writing. Any contractor not willing to guarantee his/her work is not someone with whom you should be doing business. Accept no verbal agreements. Any changes in the contract should be in writing and initialed by both parties. Keep a signed, legible copy of the contract in a safe place.
• Do not pay cash. Always pay by check or money order and keep a receipt. Write all checks to the company, not the individual worker. Make sure all subcontractors are paid to prevent a lien from being placed against your property.
• Do not sign a certificate of completion or make final payment until you are satisfied with all work performed. Save copies of all building material receipts so you can be sure you received goods and services for which you paid.
To report suspected cases of contractor fraud, contact your local law enforcement agency or district attorney, the Louisiana Licensing Board for Contractors at 1-800-256-1392/ www.lslbc.louisiana.gov, or the Louisiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-351-4889/ www.agbuddycaldwell.com.