In the wake of Hurricane Ian (or any similar disaster), if you’re facing home or property repairs, now is the time to pull out that list of reliable contractors you prepared well in advance of the storm, as noted in our preparedness blog posts.
If you don’t have that list ready/handy—perhaps, even if you do—you could find yourself at risk for being taken advantage of by con artists and criminals looking to make a quick dollar off of people in desperate need. Here are some tips to follow to help you avoid adding problems, after a storm or at any time you need work done:
- Ask any proposed contractor if they are licensed and insured, and don’t be shy to ask for documentation. They should carry their license in their vehicle.
- Never pull a permit for a contractor. This is a huge red flag that they are neither licensed nor insured in Florida.
- Never pay the entire project cost/amount upfront.
- Always leave a paper trail; so, never pay in cash.
- Inquire if a warranty is available, and what are the details to the warranty.
- Never leave blank spaces on a contract; cross those sections out.
- Never be pressured to hurry and sign a contract.
- Have someone else read through the contract.
- Never be tempted to hire someone who comes knocking on your door to offer their services.
- Keep in mind that after a disaster, con artists and criminals may try to obtain your money and steal your personal information through fraud or identity theft.
Also, watch for people trying to pass themselves off as inspectors with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). According to FEMA: “If a FEMA inspector comes to your home and you did not submit a FEMA application, please inform the inspector that you did not apply for FEMA assistance so they can submit a request to stop further processing of the application.”
For more information, visit edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FY1380.