Here in Houston, just miles from the Gulf of Mexico, we make a prime target for hurricanes, tropical storms and even flooding from especially heavy rains. When natural disasters occur, another unnatural disaster typically follows – storm-chasing “contractors’ looking to rip off hapless homeowners.
Below are some tips that can alert you to potential red flags of contractor fraud.
1. The estimate is too general
Licensed contractors will take measurements and do calculations to determine the correct amount of materials and labor costs. They will break this down into a detailed estimate. Fraudsters issue quotes off the tops of their heads because they have no intention of completing the work.
2. They solicit you
Few legitimate contractors need to seek work, especially after a natural disaster hits the area. If they are making the rounds with an old pickup truck and cheap business cards, that’s another red flag.
3. Their references are non-existent or shady
Local, licensed contractors keep portfolios of their jobs and a list of customer recommendations you can verify. Remember, just because there are photos of renovations, that doesn’t guarantee this was the one who did the job.
4. They insist on cash up-front
Some smaller but still legitimate contractors work on the “draw” system wherein the client pays a portion of the cost to cover supplies. A serious contractor will have enough cash flow to cover their payroll. It’s not your job to pay their crew.
Is there any way to recoup losses from contractor fraud?
There may be. There can also be two paths to justice – criminal and civil. Report instances of contractor fraud to your local police department. Even without a police investigation, you can still pursue civil justice through the Houston civil court system.