Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall visited the city of Jacksonville today to warn people of possible home repair fraud after the tornadoes and severe weather. Along with the Attorney General, several home building businesses, law enforcement and other city officials attended the meeting. Attorney General Marshall began the news conference by giving gratitude to all the first responders and other emergency personnel for their dedication to clearing the city of debris.
The Attorney General then discussed the dangers of con artists and fraud businesses. He says many victims of disasters are often left vulnerable and become easy prey for those criminals. The press conference also included Home Builders Licensure Board Executive Director Chip Carden who talked about how to avoid being scammed and what to do if you encounter a fraudulent business.
He says one of the most important steps to take when hiring a business is to make sure they are licensed. If you suspect a business is fraudulent, contact local law enforcement or the attorney general’s office.
See the full list of tips below:
*Find out as much as you can about them, especially if they are making unsolicited contact with you or have come from out-of-town after a natural disaster.
*Ask for proof that they are bonded or insured.
*Ask if they are Licensed. Ask to see the card! For residential construction over $10,000 a builder must be licensed by the Home Builders Licensure Board. Plumbers, HVAC contractors, and electricians must be licensed by the state regardless of the cost of work. There also may be local permitting and license requirements, so check with local city or county government. You may check with the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board to see if a contractor is licensed by calling 1-800-304-0853, or by visiting www.hblb.alabama.gov
*Ask if this particular job requires a permit and contact your local city and county government to see if the permit is required. Do not let them talk you into applying for a homeowner's permit. If they do not want to be known to local officials, they may be hiding a bad reputation.
*Obtain several written estimates. Beware of estimates that are well below the market price or seem "too good to be true."
*Ask for references. Get names and addresses, and call them.
*Require a written contract. Under state law, licensed homebuilders must use a written contract. Make sure it includes the contractor's full name, address, and telephone number; description of the work to be performed; starting and estimated completion dates; and the total cost of the job.
*NEVER make a full payment or substantial down payment up front. Do not make a final payment until you are satisfied and all subcontractors have been paid. If they tell you more money is needed in advance, be wary. They should be able to pay for supplies or have credit to make necessary purchases until you compensate them afterward.
*Make sure you can contact them. Be certain to get an office number and a cell phone number, and a physical address. Businesses with established addresses may be safer.