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How to avoid a construction scam

When natural disasters occur, as unfortunate as it is, some entrepreneurs have one thing on their mind: how to make money off of them -- and Florida has its share of disasters. Hurricanes or stormy weather is common at certain times of the year when you live in a coastal-peninsula state.

Even without a direct hit from a hurricane, Florida often suffers severe wind damage and flooding from heavy rains. This in turn, usually creates a demand for contractors and construction workers to come in and clean up the mess and make repairs. It also opens the door for scam artists in the way of unqualified and unlicensed workers trying to make money by posing as licensed contractors.

How can I avoid being scammed by an unlicensed contractor?

  • Don't sign a contract for repairs by someone who comes to your door unsolicited.
  • Have your damages assessed by your insurance company before seeking repair.
  • Get multiple written estimates, at least three.
  • Don't pay upfront for repairs.
  • Check to make sure the contractor is licensed and insured.
  • Read any contracts thoroughly before signing; they should include a three-day cancellation option.

How can I find out if a contractor is reputable?

  • Verify their license at www.MyFloridaLicense.com.
  • Check for complaints against the company at the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General's hotline (1-866-9-NO-SCAM).
  • Ask if they are bonded and from whom.
  • Ask to see proof of insurance and be sure it is current.

In the unfortunate event that you signed a contract with a less than reputable contractor, and the job was not done as promised or to your satisfaction, you may be able to file a breach of contract suit against them. An attorney can tell you what your options are.

Source: Florida Office of the Attorney General, "How to Protect Yourself: Price-Gouging After a Hurricane," accessed Jan. 19, 2018

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