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Livingston Sheriff, Attorney General & BBB urging residents to be cautious when hiring a contractor after Hurricane Ida

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 7:42 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A lot of people in our area are beginning the cleanup process after Hurricane Ida.

But Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry says you need to do your homework before hiring someone to make repairs on your home.

And local leaders in Livingston Parish like Sheriff Jason Ard, are echoing that same cautious message as well.

“Do not get scammed. Make sure that you’re paying attention to who you’re dealing with. Make sure you don’t pay them all the money upfront, and they’re coming back in two days. Make sure the jobs done before you give them the money,” said Sheriff Ard.

Sheriff Ard says, he’s seen several contractors out and about in the past couple of days, who are talking with folks, and giving estimates on damages. He wants his citizens to be on the lookout for fraud.

“Take a picture of the guy. Do an interview with the guy. Find out who he is. That helps us in law enforcement, who you’re dealing with. Because I’m telling you, there are going to be some people coming up in this parish, up to no good. We’ve seen it in the flood, we’ve seen in other hurricanes,” said Sheriff Ard.

He says citizens need to do their research, before hiring someone to do work on their home.

“Maybe ask for their credentials. Take a picture of that. A lot of these guys are supposed to have a contractor’s license, take a picture of that. It’s so easy now to check things out,” said Ard.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry says, while we always see the best in people after a hurricane or major storm, we also sadly see the worst in people.

“We want people to understand that there are people out there. There’s a criminal element out there, that will take advantage of you during these times. So, the best way not to fall prey to these scams, is to be prepared and understand what signs to look for,” said AG Landry.

Here are some tips:

- You want to get at least 3 different estimates before you decide on a contractor to fix your home.

- It’s always good to pay with a credit card, so you can dispute the charges if need be.

- Be extra cautious when it comes to out-of-state contractors who show up at your door.

“We would ask everyone to take caution, take a breath. We know that everyone has a lot of anxiety about wanting to be back in their home and getting their life back to normal as quickly as possible. But the last thing you want to do is fall prey to some of these scams,” said AG Landry.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has some Consumer Tips for Natural Disaster Victims:

https://agjefflandry.com/Files/Shared/Documents/ConsumerTipsforNaturalDisasters.pdf

You can report flood scams to the National Center for Disaster Fraud: 866-720-5721

Following the destruction in South Louisiana from Hurricane Ida the Better Business Bureau of South Central Louisiana is also urging all homeowners to be cautious when choosing businesses and contractors to help with the cleanup work.

To help property owners navigate the recovery and restoration process, BBB offers these tips below:

Check your insurance policy – Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners or renters’ insurance policies. In some high-risk flood areas, home and business owners may be required by law to carry flood insurance. To learn more about your state’s requirements check with your Insurance Commissioner.

Repairing the damage – Don’t make any permanent changes to your property until you get approval from your insurance provider. They may not fully reimburse you for repairs made without their permission. Take photos of the storm damage to show your insurance company.

Get multiple opinions – Shop around and get at least three different estimates before deciding on a contractor. Make sure the estimates are broken down the same way. Watch out for high-pressure sales tactics and less than trustworthy businesses — research company profiles at BBB.org to find reputable contractors. You can find more helpful tips on choosing a reliable contractor here.

Ask for proof of liability, worker’s compensation, and licensing – Verify the contractor has the correct license to do work in your state. This protects you in case something happens while working on your property.

Get everything in writing – Demand a written contract from anyone you hire. Clearly written, detailed proposals that are broken down into separate line items are a good sign that the contractor is being thorough and has prepared an accurate estimate. The following is a partial list of things your estimate or proposal should include:

- The type of material being used, manufacturer, and color

- Scope of work to be done, including material and labor costs

- Who is responsible for repairing/replacing exterior landscape or interior finishes that are damaged during the course of the work? Make sure that your contract contains language addressing who is responsible for any damage that occurs due to the job.

- Approximate starting and completion dates

- Payment procedures

- Length of warranty and what is covered, e.g., workmanship, water leakage, etc.

- Who will haul away the old materials and project waste? Is there an extra charge for this service?

Beware of Scams when cleaning up damage

It is also wise to be on the lookout for scammers who are seeking to take advantage of an owner’s haste to repair the damage. Here are a few red flags to be wary of:

Door-to-door workers who claim to have leftover materials. If salespeople go door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits and ask for identification. Avoid agreeing to front porch sales pitches. Instead, take your time to research the business before contacting them to pursue further details and agreements.

A contractor who shows up unannounced and claims your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect, or building official inspect it. While most roofing contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.

Never pay in full for all repairs in advance. Avoid paying with cash and instead use a credit card if possible as it may provide you additional protection if there’s a problem. While many companies may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more than one-third of the job be paid upfront. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor. The final payment should be made only after the work is complete and all subcontractors have been paid.

Businesses without local addresses. When looking for a reputable business that can help with the cleanup, start by visiting org. If a company doesn’t have a permanent place of business, this may be cause for concern. Always ask for references and verify them independently.

You can find more information on home improvement scams here. Go to BBB Scam Tracker to see if others have reported a scam, or to report a scam yourself.

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