Tips on avoiding construction scams
Unfortunately, as the rebuilding process gets underway, unlicensed contractors and scam artists may try to cash in on your misfortune. It is natural for homeowners to be in a hurry to begin making repairs following a natural disaster. However, you will save yourself a lot of time, money, and frustration by taking the time to check the credentials of the businesses and individuals before you hire them to repair your property.
• Always check references. Call other clients who have had projects completed by this contractor and find out how they felt about their experience.
• Be suspicious of any contractor who tries to rush you. If possible, shop around for a contractor by getting recommendations from friends and neighbors. Be wary of anyone knocking on your door offering unsolicited repairs to your home.
• Never pay for work up front. Always inspect the work and make sure you’re satisfied before you pay. Pay in installments as work is completed to your satisfaction. Do not pay anything until you have a contract signed by both you and the contractor, and until after you have checked the contractor's license with a state licensing agency.
• Check credentials and licenses with your state's contractors licensing board, the Better Business Bureau, or state attorney general’s office to see if the firm has any outstanding complaints.
• Always have a written, detailed contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do, including prices for labor and materials, clean-up procedures, and estimated start and finish dates. Never sign a contract with blank spaces, which a crooked contractor can alter after they've gotten your signature.
• Don’t believe a contractor who says they're endorsed by the government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not endorse individual contractors or loan companies.
• Avoid paying with cash; use a check or credit card instead. This creates a record of your payments to the contractor.