Property Grunt

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Contractor Fraud in Florida

I saw this last night on NBC news on Contractor Fraud and it got me really, really angry. This poor elderly woman in Florida hired this contractor and gave him $36,000 of insurance money to fix parts of her home damaged during the hurricanes. The end result was that he destroyed her house, stole perfectly good fixtures and ran off with her money.

According to the news story there is more work than there are contractors in Florida.

State investigators checking on work sites say part of the problem is there's more work than there are reputable contractors.

The good news is that the authorities are well aware of this and are on a mission to make the wrong things right.

Eddie James, of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, has a message for people who come to Florida figuring they can just rip people off, take the insurance money and run.

"Don’t come, 'cause if you do we're going to use all means necessary to catch you, and put you in jail," he says

I know why this piece of garbage did this because this was an elderly woman who had no one to protect her and was probably afraid that he would hurt her. He also knew if he was ever caught, which he was, she would probably be dead or incapciated before his case went to trail and it would be highly unlikely that any civil penalities would be enforced.

How do you protect yourself from scumbag contractors? MSNBC was good enough to display a set of links that provide information on how to properly conduct business with a contractor. They include the following

1. Federal Trade Commission publication: "After a Disaster: Repairing Your Home"

2. FTC quiz: Test your skills at hiring a contractor

3. Better Business Bureau tips on home repairs

4. The National Association of Home Builders Remodelors Council will provide a free copy of their brochure "How to Find a Professional Remodeler," if you send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

NAHB Remodelors Council
Dept. FT
1201 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

If you suspect you're the victim of contractor fraud, you can file an online complaint with the FTC or call them at 1-877-FTC-HELP (TTY: 1-866-653-4261).

You should also check your local state and city agencies to learn more about laws and the procedures to find a good contractor. A good place to start is your local Better Business Bureau.