From The Tribune staff reports
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Attorney General’s Office and the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board are warning residents of the potential for home repair contractor fraud, as tornado cleanup continues.
“While residents of Fultondale and Center Point are still struggling to recover from the destruction from this week’s EF-3 tornado, they should be aware that unscrupulous home repair workers may seek to victimize them financially,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall. “Shady contractors often seek out vulnerable victims in the wake of natural disasters, offering to make home repairs and clean up, charging exorbitant prices or inadequately performing work. Persons can avoid being victimized by asking for the contractor’s state license.”
Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board Executive Director, J.R. “Chip” Carden, cautions homeowners who experienced damage from the tornado that traveled through Jefferson County and emphasizes the importance of the consumer knowing about the potential problems of contracting for homebuilding and remodeling with unlicensed contractors. “Do your homework,” Carden advises. “Call any references the builder gives you and check with the Board to confirm if a builder is licensed and in good standing. Don’t be in a rush. A bad decision now can make a difficult situation even worse.”
The Home Builders Licensure Board and the Attorney General’s Office outlined steps consumers should take when working with a contractor builder on storm damage repairs:
- Ask if they are licensed. Ask to see the card! The HBLB license is a credit card-sized license – a sample is listed on HBLB’s website. You may check on a builder’s license status by calling 1-800-304-0853, or by visitingwww.hblb.alabama.gov
• Ask for and check references, especially if the builder makes unsolicited contact with you or is from out-of-town.
- Make sure quotes and contracts are in writing. Under state law, licensed homebuilders must use a written contract. Make sure it includes the contractor’s full name, address, telephone number, a description of the work to be performed, starting and estimated completion dates, and the total cost of the job.
- NEVER make a full payment or substantial down payment up front. Do not make a final payment until you are satisfied, and all subcontractors have been paid. If they tell you that more money is needed in advance, be wary.
- Ask for proof of insurance, including workers compensation and general liability.
“You may report concerns of alleged fraud to my office for investigation,” said Attorney General Marshall. “To fill out a complaint online, visit www.alabamaag.gov and look for the “consumer complaint” link. You may also phone our Consumer Interest Division toll-free, 1-800-392-5658.”
For information about home repair licensing and potential fraud, contact the Home Builders Licensure Board, 445 Herron Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104, (334) 242-2230 or 1-800-304-0853 or www.hblb.alabama.gov.