Are you ready to identify contractor fraud?

Hurricane season.

Hurricane season has been quiet with solely three tropical storms thus far 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 shaped, 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 Shopper Advocate and insurers are working collectively to empower Floridians with the data and assets to combat 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 assist, an inflow of fraudulent roofing restore schemes and its corresponding wave of litigation after a catastrophe can be devastating for customers.

Whereas contractors play an integral function within the constructing and restore course of and most are reputable, others need to make the most of owners in weak conditions after a catastrophe. Owners ought to look ahead to crimson flags, reminiscent of somebody going door-to-door utilizing excessive stress 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 lined by your coverage earlier than you signal any contracts. After you have established the repairs are lined, then use a licensed, insured, and respected contractor to make the repairs.

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

Earlier than shifting ahead, get three written, itemized estimates and evaluate the bids. If one of many bids is way increased or decrease than the others, that may 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.

After you have selected a contractor, get a written contract that clearly states every part the contractor will do, together with costs for labor and supplies. By no means signal a contract with blanks that could possibly be crammed 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 a report of cost.

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

The easiest way to combat fraud is to learn and ready. Florida’s Insurance coverage Shopper 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 obtainable on-line at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Division/ICA/FraudPrevention.

We encourage you to print the information and hold it in a safe location along with your insurance coverage and different essential paperwork, so it’s simply accessible after a storm. Put together as a lot as attainable 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 Shopper 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 tips on how to spot and cease contractor fraud after a catastrophe | Opinion