Homeowners and Business Owners BEWARE – Criminals posing as contractors, roofers and restoration specialists do exist and they do not care how much you have lost
Since Hurricane Harvey, we have received numerous phone calls from homeowners and business owners who received an insurance payment for damages to their property as a result of Hurricane Harvey, endorsed the check and handed it to their “trusted” contractor, roofer or restoration specialist and were shocked when this same contractor, roofer or restoration specialist cashed the check, stopped returning their calls and to date, have not commenced work on their property. These homeowners say things to me like “who would do such a thing,” “do they not care that we lost everything and that money was supposed to be to help us rebuild,” and “I trusted them; they told me they would help me; they promised they would repair my home.” The sad and unfortunate consequence of something like Hurricane Harvey that causes mass destruction and creates a higher demand for “help” is it allows criminals who claim to be contractors, roofers or restoration specialists to take complete advantage of the situation and prey on homeowners.
We have worked with several reputable, honest, good, hardworking contractors, roofers and restoration specialists. I have witnessed contractors taking huge fee cuts, doing work for little to no profit to help homeowners and business owners rebuild their property after a terrible loss. However, the fraudulent ones do exist and as a homeowner or business owner, you should be leery about their existence and try your very best to protect yourselves and your property against these criminal companies. Here are just a few things that you, as a homeowner and business owner, can do to protect yourself and make sure that the contractor, roofer or restoration specialist that you hire to make repairs to your property is reputable:
• Check for an online presence – not all companies have websites but check to see if they have a Facebook page, other social media accounts or any reviews posted on online reviewing sources;
• Ask for a business card – see if the company has a mailing address and a working phone number; try to do an internet search of the address to verify that it is in fact a valid address and call the telephone number to see if anyone answers, do they reference the company name, etc.;
• Ask around your neighborhood to see if they have done any work on your neighbors’ homes;
• Ask them for a set date/time that they will start the work and hold them to it;
• Do not endorse a payment from the insurance company to any contractor, roofer, or restoration specialist without any work being performed or materials being purchased; and
• Set up a payment schedule with the roofer, contractor or restoration specialist for repairs completed, i.e. % of the cost to start the work, % of the cost when certain repairs are completed, etc.
I do understand that roofers, contractors and restoration specialists might need a certain amount of funding up front to purchase materials; however, if a company asks you to render the entire payment or a large percentage of the payment upfront (with no work being done or materials being delivered), this should pose a red flag. The same problems exist for reputable contractors, roofers and restoration specialist who try to help homeowners and business owners and when the work is completed, they do not get paid. However, this can be solved for both the contractor and the homeowner or business owner if a payment schedule is set up and agreed to by both parties.
My sincere thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who are still rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey. Our law firm is always ready and willing to answer questions and provide general legal advice to anyone still trying to “navigate the waters” after a property loss claim. If you or a family member of friend has any questions, please ask them to call our law firm at 713-840-0950.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season!