5 guidelines to avoid being ripped off by contractors - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

5 guidelines to avoid being ripped off by contractors

Contractor fraud is common in every city, and Jacksonville is no exception. The tragedy is prime time for contractors to defraud homeowners that think they’ll be working with a reputable contractor to do work on their home or business.

A three-month investigation after Hurricane Irma resulted in five individuals being arrested for construction fraud.

The investigation led to 73 others being charged in fraud. Florida has outlined a contractor check to help residents avoid falling victim to fraud.

1. Check to Make Sure the Contractor is Licensed

Contractors are required to be licensed. The Disaster Fraud Anti-Strike Team, DFAST, recommends making sure that the contractor that you hire is licensed. You can check to see if the contractor has a license through the state at Florida DBPR.

You can search for a licensee by:

  • Name
  • License Number
  • License Type
  • City or County

If a contractor isn’t listed, it’s best to avoid using the contractor even if they have far lower rates than the competition.

2. Check the Contractor’s Workers’ Compensation Compliance

Workers’ compensation compliance protects a contractor’s workforce. A single contractor that is only working for themselves with no other employees may not be required to have workers’ compensation.

But a red flag for fraud is when a contractor has multiple employees and isn’t listed as having workers’ compensation.

You can check the status of a contractor’s workers compensation compliance on Florida’s DFS website.

The search is free and also provides the most recently updated date and time for the database.

3. Perform a Background Check

A background check may be overkill for a drain cleaning, but if you plan on spending thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, you can search people online to see if they have any incidents of:

  • Arrests
  • Criminal activity
  • Sex Offenses
  • Misdemeanors
  • Felonies

You can even find information about the contractor’s career. A background check should be done to ensure that the contractor doesn’t have charges of fraud against them. The good news is that all you need is the person’s first and last name to conduct a search.

It’s worth the time an effort to avoid a potential scam.

4. Check References

If everything has been positive up until this point, it’s a good idea to check the person’s references. You can ask the contractor for references from previous customers to learn more about the work and project that was completed.

Contractors that hire subcontractors to complete the work should also divulge the subcontractor’s information.

You’ll want to do a license, workers’ compensation and a background check on these subcontractors, too. Ask the subcontractor about working with the main contractor, too.

Ask around town about the contractor, too.

Angie’s List provides a list of questions to ask references to see if the contractor is worth hiring. Sometimes, even the nicest contractor in the world will not be a good fit for your project. The contractor that always misses deadlines doesn’t complete work, goes missing for days at a time or always goes over budget may not be the right choice for you.

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