Hurricanes, like the most recent Hurricane Ida, cause catastrophic destruction in their wake. By most accounts, it can take months and even years to understand the full financial impact of the natural disaster.
It’s one thing to ride out the hours and days that the hurricane beats up on your home or business. The days and weeks following are fraught with frustration and despair as you begin to assess the damage. Aside from you needing help, it’s very likely that everyone around you needs help too.
This can make you susceptible to a new round of problems following the hurricane and that’s contractors who are scammers. With many people who are desperate for help with storm repairs, the opportunity is rich for unscrupulous workers and contractors to take advantage.
Sure you want your house repairs done. But you need to make sure you’re hiring a legitimate contractor who will actually help get your house put back together again.
Read on for the signs that a contractor is really pulling a scam and for how to find a contractor who can really help you with your house repairs.
Recognizing a Contractors Is Trying to Scam You
Sadly, when there are many people who are desperate for help, fraudulent contractors come from far and wide to try to take advantage of the desperation. With so much need, it can get competitive to find a contractor to help you.
Scam contractors recognized the desperation and will take advantage leaving you in an even worse situation. There are some signs that a contractor isn’t being on the up and up though. Let’s take a closer look at some signs you might be facing a shady contractor.
Out of Town
A contractor who is from out of town isn’t an automatic fraud. Many insurance companies and even legitimate contractors will come to areas ravaged by a natural disaster to try to help with the work.
But, there are some signs an out-of-town contractor is a fraud. If the contractor doesn’t have a full business address, but instead only a PO box. If the contractor will only provide you with their local hotel address, this is also a warning sign they could be trouble for you.
How the contractor seeks to get money from you tells you a lot about their credibility. First, if they want cash, especially cash upfront, you should recognize the red flags. If you pay a contractor cash before they have completed the work, it’s highly likely you will never see them again.
Don’t fall for the line of paying them upfront to secure your spot for work. A more established (and dare we say, honest) contractor should be willing to take a credit card and a deposit for work. Paying with a credit card, even for a deposit, creates a payment trail so the contractor can be tracked if they do take off before work is complete.
Estimates and Contracts
It’s possible when there’s an abundance of work, hiring a contractor will be a little different than during other times. You may not have the luxury of getting multiple bids for work. Or the contractors may not be willing to do bids for free. This just has to do with the sheer demand for work.
But if a contractor isn’t willing to give an estimate in writing, that’s a sure red flag they aren’t legitimate.
You should even expect a contract for work that spells out what you’re getting done and for what cost. It should also spell out the payment timeline. If you’re suspicious of any contract for work, it’s worth the extra money to have an experienced attorney take a look at the contract.
References of Work
You should absolutely not hire any type of contractor without asking for references. And you should check them too. Sometimes, in desperation, even if you ask for references, you’ll skip the important step of checking the references. If you can’t reach any of the references or something about the person or number feels suspicious, pay attention to it.
A legitimate contractor should absolutely be able to provide references. If the contractor says they are from out of town so they can’t provide them, walk away.
No Insurance or License
Contractors are required by most states to be licensed and to carry insurance. If you ask a contractor if they carry liability insurance and worker’s comp insurance and they can’t provide it, you should again walk away.
You should be able to ask to see insurance, state licenses, workman’s comp paperwork. If they won’t provide it or are vague, this is a red flag for a scammer. In fact, these things protect the contractor as much as they protect you. You don’t want to hire a contractor who isn’t protected with liability insurance.
Promising the World
When there is high demand, you can sometimes forget to pay attention to the signs that there might be a potential issue. And certainly, you may feel rather desperate to get your home and your life back in order. But pay attention to these little signs.
If the contractor promises you things that seem too good to be true or even unbelievably lucky, that’s a sign. Following a hurricane, materials are scarce. Workers are scarce. If what the contractor is promising sounds like it’s going to solve all of your problems really quickly, take a step back and make sure they aren’t promising you things that aren’t realistic to deliver.
Consider Choosing Local Contractors
While demand might be high for help, consider hiring a contractor you’ve worked with before or one that comes recommended by family or friends. It’s usually a good sign when someone else you know has had a positive experience with the contractor.
It might also be good to know you’re supporting a local contractor who may have hurricane damage to contend with too.
Finding an Honest Contractor for Your Home Repairs
The time following a natural disaster can feel like the second wave of the storm as you work to recover and rebuild. Don’t make the mistake of hiring a contractor without thoroughly checking them out. You certainly don’t want to create more problems for yourself.
If you need help with your insurance company or a contractor issue, we are here for you. We are Hurricane Ida Damage Claims lawyers who know how to protect our clients from a scam. Contact us today to discuss your needs for recovery from the storm.