Disaster Survivors Reminded to be Aware of Contractor Fraud

PEARL – Disaster survivors face many challenges during the recovery process, but survivors can avoid being victims of contractor fraud. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi State Board of Contractors urge disaster survivors to protect themselves from contractor fraud.

Homeowners should not rush into choosing a contractor and should take time to research a contractor’s credentials. Be extremely cautious of anyone that comes to your home uninvited and offers to do home repair work.

Hire a licensed contractor and always ask to see a copy of the license. Research the license number through the MSBOC website at www.msboc.us to verify the contractor’s license status and find records of violations.

Before You Hire a Contractor:

  • Detail the work you need completed.
  • Try to obtain bids from at least three contractors.
  • Require a contractor to provide written references from previous clients. Contact the references to follow up.
  • Always require a written contract, and don’t put more than 10 percent or $1,000 down, whichever is less.
  • Don’t pay cash, and pay for work as it is completed. Do not pay the final balance until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
  • Ask contractors if they will be purchasing necessary permits and if the work will be inspected.

What Your Written Contract Should Include Before You Sign:

  • The contractor’s complete information and license number.
  • A guarantee that the contractor carries liability insurance and has worker’s compensation coverage.

Contractor Fraud

  • A right to cancel clause. This should outline the time frame in which you can cancel the contract after signing and any penalties you may incur.
  • A detailed description of the work to be done, including specifics on materials.
  • The contract price.
  • A payment schedule, including payments made to subcontractors and suppliers.
  • Start dates and completion dates for all work, including a clause that allows you to withhold payment if work slows without good reason.
  • A statement of warranty on the work. Make sure the statement addresses guarantees on labor and materials.
  • A statement of all permits and variances required by your jurisdiction.
  • All instructions for cleanup, removal of debris and special instructions of the homeowner.

Homeowners can find more information on hiring a contractor at www.msboc.us, including a pre-screening checklist. Contact the Mississippi State Board of Contractors at 1- 800-880-6161 for more information.

If you are a victim of contractor fraud, notify the Mississippi State Board of Contractors in writing by completing the complaint form found online at www.msboc.us. The Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection can investigate allegations of fraud or illegal practices by a Mississippi business. Contact them at 1-800-281-4418.

For more information, visit us online at www.msema.org. You can also follow us on Twitter using keyword MSEMA and on Facebook under Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

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