As Floridians begin to focus on repairing, rebuilding, and recovering after Hurricane Ian, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate (ICA) Tasha Carter and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) urge caution in selecting a contractor or other third party to assist with the insurance claim or damage repair process. While contractors play an integral role in the building and repair process and most are legitimate, there are others looking to take advantage of homeowners in vulnerable situations. By following the tips outlined in the ICA/APCIA Prevent Contractor Fraud and Abuse Guide, homeowners can protect themselves and ensure they are working with a licensed and reputable contractor.
“Having seen the devastation in Southwest Florida’s communities firsthand, I know the road to recovery is long, but it will only be made worse if a homeowner falls victim to a fraudster or scammer. I urge all Floridians to keep their guard up and exercise extreme caution if someone shows up unsolicited at your door offering to inspect your roof or make repairs,” said Tasha Carter, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate.
Homeowners need to watch for red flags, such as someone going door-to-door using high pressure sales tactics and demanding payment up front.
“Insurers want to protect their customers against fraudsters looking to prey on disaster victims, which is why policyholders should work closely with their insurer throughout the claims process and lean on your adjuster if you have questions or concerns,” said Logan McFaddin, vice president of state government relations for APCIA.
Florida’s ICA and APCIA offer the following tips to help prevent homeowners from falling victim to contractor fraud and abuse.
- Be alert and know the warning signs. Be on the lookout for unsolicited offers to inspect or repair your roof. Be cautious of contractors who try to pressure you into signing a contract and require cash for a down payment or full payment up front.
- Contact your insurer first. File your claim first and let your insurer verify what repairs are necessary before signing any contracts. Then find a licensed contractor to make the repairs. Your insurer can help you identify licensed contractors in your area.
- Verify insurance and licenses. Make sure the contractor you hire has liability and workers’ compensation insurance and check to see if the contractor has a legitimate local address. Florida residents should check the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) website to be sure the contractor is licensed and bonded.
- Get three bids and check references. Get three written, itemized estimates for the work and compare the bids. Require the contractor to provide you with references and contact those references to verify the work was done on time and completed in compliance with the current building code.
- Check for complaints. Florida residents should check with Florida DBPR or the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor.
- Never pay in full upfront. Most contractors will require a reasonable down payment, but never pay in full up front and do not pay in cash. Make sure you have a detailed written contract in place before paying anything. Pay for the work in installments as the job is completed and use a check or credit card so that you have a record of payment. Verify that the work was done before paying the invoices.
- Get a written contract. Always get a written contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do, including prices for labor and materials. Make sure the contract includes clean-up procedures and estimated start and completion dates. Never sign a contract with blanks that can be filled in later by the contractor. Ensure you understand the contract prior to signing; seek assistance from a trusted friend or relative, if needed.
The ICA/APCIA Prevent Contractor Fraud and Abuse Guide provides more detailed information and tips.
Demolish Contractor Fraud: Steps to Avoid Falling Victim
Flood Insurance: What You Need to Know
About Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate
Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Tasha Carter is an independent leader with an effective and powerful voice for all insurance consumers. In this role, ICA Carter is committed to increasing consumer awareness and education; assisting consumers with insurance-related matters; and engaging legislatively to represent Florida’s insurance consumers. The ICA serves the interests of Florida’s insurance consumers by representing the general public before key stakeholders and developing consumer-focused solutions.
Follow ICA Carter on Twitter and Facebook: @YourFLVoice.
About the American Property Casualty Insurance Association
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) is the primary national trade association for home, auto, and business insurers. APCIA promotes and protects the viability of private competition for the benefit of consumers and insurers, with a legacy dating back 150 years. APCIA members represent all sizes, structures, and regions—protecting families, communities, and businesses in the U.S. and across the globe.