If your house has been damaged by a natural disaster -- flood, fire, snow/ice, tornado or earthquake -- chances are you're on the hunt for a reputable contractor to help with repair and restoration. Inevitably, the demand for qualified contractors after a disaster usually exceeds the supply. Enter the home repair rip-off artist, who may overcharge, perform shoddy work or skip town without finishing your job.
This article provides practical advice and some red flags to look for when repairing your home after a disaster. See FindLaw's Owning a Home section for additional articles.
Because many legitimate licensed home repair companies can be booked solid for months, frustrated and anxious homeowners and landlords, eager to get their property back in shape, may neglect to take the usual precautions when hiring contractors. As a result, some consumers find that they've hired part-time contractors, who may not get the job done in a reasonable time; contractors from surrounding areas, who may be difficult to track down for follow-up; inexperienced contractors, who may not do the job well; and all too often, just plain crooks, who are seizing the opportunity to make a fast buck.
Many communities have emergency ordinances in place to keep crooked contractors out. But for consumers desperate to get the work done, recognizing a home repair rip-off can be a challenge.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency offer the following tips for consumers who may be facing major repairs after a disaster hits home:
If you suspect a repair rip-off, call the consumer division of your state Attorney General. If you suspect fraud, waste, or abuse involving Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance programs, report it to FEMA's Inspector General's Office. You shouldn't have to suffer additional headaches when repairing your home after a disaster, so proceed with caution.