Don't Get Scammed By Post-Hurricane Irma Contractors

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

What Should You Expect After A Hurricane?

In the wake of a hurricane, many will find themselves worried and frustrated by the traumatic events they have just endured. Sadly, many individuals will use this as an opportunity to defraud people of their money. All too often you hear about situations involving individuals claiming to be contractors, running off with someone’s hard earned money. Fortunately, there are several precautions you can take to ensure that you are not scammed by these fraudsters.

How Can I Protect Myself from Scammers?

There are some red flags you should be aware of, and some precautions you should take, with respect to contractors. Be wary of individuals showing up at your front door offering fast results and/or a bargain deal. While it may be the case that some reputable contractors go door to door soliciting business, it is more likely that after a natural disaster most reputable contractors will be so busy that they will not have the time do solicit business this way. You should know that when it comes to dealing with contractors, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Another typical scam involves an individual that promises results, but is requesting a substantial sum of money up front to purchase materials for the job. As soon as you pay, they take off never to be seen again. Do not fall for this scam. An honest and reputable contractor may ask for a partial payment up front. However, most contractors accept electronic payment as well as payment by check. These methods of payment create a paper trail making it easier to track the individual, should it become necessary.

Research your contactor and try to go local. After a hurricane, you will see a sudden surge of contractors in your area. Many of these contractors will be out-of-towners looking for work. While some may be decent, honest people, others are simply looking to scam you. This is not a time when you should be rolling the dice. Try to contact local contractors in your area with positive reviews, and plenty of references. A good contractor will have no problem providing you with references, previous clients, licensing, insurance policies, etc. The internet is a wonderful tool, use it.

You should get several written estimates before committing to a contractor, and you should always get that contract in writing. After locating several reputable contractors, get as many written estimates as possible. Require these contractors to justify their estimates in writing. For example, the types and costs of the materials that will be used, the time it will take, and the cost of the labor should be included. Review these estimates, and find a contractor that will be the best fit for your circumstance. Once you have settled on a reputable contractor, make sure that you get the contract in writing. Again, you should be as detailed as possible about the contours of the work you are paying for. If there are any warranties, or guarantees, make sure that is in the contract as well.

Make sure that your contract includes a completion schedule, as well as a schedule of payments. As a general matter, you should refrain from paying all of the work up front, and a good contractor typically will not ask for it. Work out the payment in accordance with completion schedules. Although many contractors will ask you for some payment up front, this payment should not be in excess of about 20% of the total cost of the work, and your final payment should not be completed until the work is done.

How Can You Locate a Reputable Contractor?

Due diligence is extremely important when hiring a contractor. The effort you put in upfront will pay off in the end. A good starting point may be the internet, but a simple search should not be the end of your inquiry. Check as many reviews as you can find. Consult with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints filed against the contractor you are considering. Many websites will provide databases of licensed and recommended contractors. If you have someone that you’ve worked with in the past, give them a call. Even if they are no longer available, perhaps they can recommend someone. Get referrals from friends.  Check for licenses and insurance.  The point is, don’t settle for someone who is simply telling you what you want to hear at that moment. It may end up costing you much more in the long run.

You can reach Miami Hurricane Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].