Are you ready to identify contractor fraud?

Hurricane season.

Hurricane season has been quiet with solely three tropical storms to this point in 2022, however peak season exercise is starting. Colorado State College forecasts a complete of 18 storms, together with the three named storms which have already fashioned, earlier than the season ends on Nov. 30.

Extra storms imply extra alternatives for dishonest contractors and fraudsters to prey on owners in want of repairs, which is why Florida’s Insurance coverage Client Advocate and insurers are working collectively to empower Floridians with the data and assets to struggle fraud and keep away from changing into a sufferer.

Illegitimate contractors’ deception and deliberate schemes have a far-reaching impression on Floridians and the insurance coverage market. Fraud drives up prices and leaves customers to cowl the scarcity. With Florida’s property insurance coverage market on life help, an inflow of fraudulent roofing restore schemes and its corresponding wave of litigation after a catastrophe could be devastating for customers.

Whereas contractors play an integral position within the constructing and restore course of and most are reliable, others need to benefit from owners in weak conditions after a catastrophe. Householders ought to look ahead to crimson flags, akin to somebody going door-to-door utilizing excessive strain gross sales ways and demanding cost up entrance. Earlier than peak hurricane season exercise kicks into gear, owners ought to create an inventory of licensed, respected contractors of their space.

If your property is broken or destroyed in a storm, contact your insurer first to file your declare. Your insurer ought to confirm the repairs are coated by your coverage earlier than you signal any contracts. Upon getting established the repairs are coated, then use a licensed, insured, and respected contractor to make the repairs.

Make sure that the contractor has an lively, legitimate Florida license at www.MyFloridaLicense.com. Ask the contractor to supply proof of common legal responsibility and staff’ compensation insurance coverage by requesting a certificates of insurance coverage.

Earlier than transferring ahead, get three written, itemized estimates and examine the bids. If one of many bids is far greater or decrease than the others, that could be a potential crimson flag. When researching contractors, examine with the Florida Division of Enterprise & Skilled Regulation or the Higher Enterprise Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed towards them.

Upon getting selected a contractor, get a written contract that clearly states the whole lot the contractor will do, together with costs for labor and supplies. By no means signal a contract with blanks that might be stuffed in later with out your data or consent. Most contractors require an inexpensive down cost, however by no means pay in full up entrance and don’t pay in money. Use a examine or bank card so that you’ve got a file of cost.

Florida’s property insurance coverage market is experiencing important turmoil as a result of extreme authorized system abuse and fraud. The extra we are able to crack down on unhealthy actors and forestall fraud from taking place, the extra we will help stabilize the marketplace for customers long-term.

One of the best ways to struggle fraud is to learn and ready. Florida’s Insurance coverage Client Advocate and the American Property Casualty Insurance coverage Affiliation have created an in depth information for the way customers can keep away from being a sufferer of contractor fraud and abuse. The free, printer-friendly information is accessible on-line at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Division/ICA/FraudPrevention.

We encourage you to print the information and preserve it in a safe location along with your insurance coverage and different vital paperwork, so it’s simply accessible after a storm. Put together as a lot as potential beforehand to guard your self from fraud and make the catastrophe restoration course of smoother.

Tasha Carter

Tasha Carter

Tasha Carter is Florida’s Insurance coverage Client Advocate.

Logan McFaddin

Logan McFaddin

Logan McFaddin is vice chairman of state authorities relations for the American Property Casualty Insurance coverage Affiliation.

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This text initially appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Know the best way to spot and cease contractor fraud after a catastrophe | Opinion