Avoiding Home Repair Fraud: How to Find a Contractor You Can Trust

Home Repair Contractor

 

In the wake of this year’s hurricane season, thousands of Florida residents’ homes have suffered from damage. Whether it’s a minor issue or something more serious, many Florida homeowners find themselves in need of a home repair contractor. Of course, there are plenty of other scenarios where you might need to hire a repair contractor: for example, a broken pipe can leak and damage floors or walls. But while it’s always a good idea to ensure that you’re hiring a reputable repair company, recent large-scale damage from hurricanes have resulted in a huge spike in Florida insurance home repair fraud. Shady contractors are everywhere, looking to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners through an Assignment of Benefits clause.

So, how do you ensure that the contractor you hire is legit? Check out our guide below.

What Does Home Repair Fraud Look Like?

First of all, it’s important to understand how someone might go about committing fraud while providing contractual repair services. If you’ve never heard about or encountered home repair fraud, your idea of what it looks like might be a bit vague. On the most basic level, a less than reputable repair company might take your money and fail to perform the services they’ve agreed to in advance. Or, they may simply do shoddy work, and disappear once things go wrong.

More often, though, Florida home repair fraud has taken a very specific form in recent years through something called Assignment of Benefits. Under certain circumstances, Florida law can allow a repair company to “stand in” for the homeowner when submitting a claim for repairs to their insurance company.

Contractors might present this to a homeowner as something advantageous. They’ll take care of dealing with the insurance company, and save the homeowner the hassle of having to handle the claim. While on the surface this sounds plausible, the reality is often something entirely different.

In instances of fraud, contractors will team up with public adjusters (specialists who provide advice and expertise related to insurance claims) and attorneys. They’ll then dramatically inflate the cost of the repairs needed, and file suit against their client’s insurance company in order to force them to pay. Meanwhile, the homeowner is stuck in the middle, and often ends up incurring significant legal fees of their own as a result–not to mention the time, energy, and stress that come along with the situation.

So, how do you ensure that your find a contractor who won’t put you in this kind of a situation?

Research the Contractor

Research Home Contractors

First and foremost, it’s essential to thoroughly research any contractor you’re considering hiring. Never hire someone without checking into their background first. There are a few different ways that you can go about this.

One of the easiest ways to see whether or not a contractor is legit is to Google them, and take a look at their client reviews. See what sort of feedback they’re received from past clients. Do they have 5 star reviews? Are their clients happy with their work? Take a look at their social media pages, and see if there are any scathing comments. If the vast majority of past clients are happy with them, that’s a good sign.

Beyond simply checking for online reviews, though, you should also verify that the contractor is officially licensed in Florida. A plethora of unscrupulous and unqualified contractors have entered the labor pool following the past few years’ hurricanes, and you’ll want to ensure that you hire someone who’s actually prepared to do the job right. Check the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation website to see if the contractor is listed. If they are, then they’re much less likely to engage in fraud.  If you’re unsure about a contractor, contact Heritage Insurance to review and authorize.

Read the Contract in Full

Assignment of Benefits Fraud

Home repair fraud in Florida is often committed via an Assignment of Benefits clause in the contract that you sign with the contractor. While the contractor may gloss over this section, insisting that it will simply make things easier for you on your end, it’s incredibly important that you read the contract in its entirety and understand it fully. Don’t sign something that doesn’t make sense to you, or that you’re unclear about. If the repair company won’t answer questions about the contract, or fails to clarify something that seems unusual, that’s a sure sign that they’re not a reputable service provider.

 

 

Always Report Fraud

Report Home Repair Fraud

If you believe that a company is attempting to commit fraud, it’s important to report them to the authorities. The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services is available via phone, email, and in-person to assist Florida consumers with cases of fraud. Their website includes tips for avoiding fraudulent transactions, and is another excellent resource for Florida consumers looking to avoid fraud.

 

 

Skip the Headache: Call Heritage

Even if you follow all of the above tips, there’s always the chance that you could still be defrauded when attempting to hire a repair contractor. Taking the steps outlined in this guide will significantly reduce your likelihood of becoming a fraud victim; but, nevertheless, the chance remains. That is, unless you work with a home insurance company like Heritage Insurance.

Why? Just imagine that your home has suffered from some kind of damage, and is in need of immediate repair. The situation could be serious: water damage that makes your home unlivable, for instance. Now, try to envision yourself following all of the steps above to find a reputable contractor for the needed work. It’s easy to see how challenging it can be to find a company you can trust when you’re under pressure, and when you need a contractor to begin the work right away.

That’s why Heritage offers all of its customers complimentary membership in its Platinum Preferred Savings Program. As a Platinum program member, all you have to do when disaster strikes is call Heritage Claims. One of our specialists will be dispatched to handle your situation from beginning to end: no calling around to find a contractor, and no worrying about whether or not they’re reputable. Heritage handles everything.

Are you ready to make the switch to Heritage? Click here for a free quote today.