Laura Tuggle, SLLS Executive Director, is NOBA's go-to person on hurricane housing issues. Laura recommends a list of tips to avoid contracor fraud and scams. Read on:
Check out any person or company you might hire to repair your home
Get their full name and business address and ask to see their Louisiana license.
Check the company is at the address
Check if the contractor is licensed or registered to do repair work in Louisiana. You can download the free "La. Contractor" mobile app or use the contractor search function of the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at https://lslbc.louisiana.gov or call (800) 256-1392.
Ask for at least 3 references for their previous work, check their reviews online and on social media. Speak to their previous customers, inspecting the work done and asking previous customers’ opinion of the contractor.
Get a copy of their proof of liability insurance and call the insurer to verify that the coverage is valid
Get a copy of their workers compensation info
Get at least 3 written, detailed and signed estimates. Don’t accept estimates over the phone, and be wary of very low estimates. They could set up a “bait-and-switch” tactic. Make sure each contractor bids on the same work.
Any estimates should have start and end dates for the work.
All work listed should be itemized with costs for each task and a total sum for all the work to be performed
Everything you want done needs to be listed, or you will not be able to do anything if it does not get done. For example, the contractor does not have to put crown molding back in unless the contract says it. Or if you expect a certain kind of flooring or tile, it needs to be written in the document.
Be wary of contractors contacting you for work. Resist high-pressure sales. Take your time and evaluate all of the estimates and to make your decision.
You may be concerned about a shortage of contractors after the hurricane. But because of the shortage many repairmen offer services even though they could not normally get a contracting job of this size. Some are just out to steal people’s money. Others may be well-meaning, but lack the experience to deal with hurricane repairs, get in over their heads, or promise services to too many people.
Once you agree on a contractor, sign a written contract with both you and the contractor signing. Make sure it clearly specifies the price, the exact work to be done, whether the contract covers materials as well as labor, who will perform the work, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame for the work to be completed. Keep a signed, clear copy of the contract in a safe place.
It is difficult to enforce a time deadline in the contract, unless it specifies penalties for late work, which most contractors will not agree to. If you are counting on the repairs by a certain date, put the date in the contract and the reason for the date. For example, that the date is because you are having to pay rent somewhere else until you can move back.
If the contractor will be getting any needed city permits, the contract needs to say this.
Don’t pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront. A reputable contractor will not require a down payment over 10 to 25 percent of the total. Insist that payments be made to the company, not to an individual. Get receipts on company documents of all payments.
One payment option is to pay by credit card. This may provide you with additional protection if there’s a problem. However, you must be able to cover those payments with other funds to avoid running up your credit card debt and interest charges.
NEVER pay with cash.
Know your rights and responsibilities. Check with your homeowners and/or flood insurance agent to make sure your insurance covers falls or injuries to contractors.
Check with your city officials to see what permits contractors need to work on your property and check that your permits have been filed and properly posted on your property BEFORE the start of the work
Take pictures of home damage before repair work begins and as it progresses. Take pictures of your contractors, their employees and their vehicle license plates. Save the photos in a secure location.
Keep detailed notes of conversations about work changes, cost overruns, etc. Keep copies of all emails.