We have all heard horror stories of contractors gone bad. Contractors committing fraud, just plain poor service or terribly completed work is fairly common here in Florida. In fact, this kind of thing happens so often around the country that comedian and talk show host, Adam Corolla, created a TV show to catch fraudulent contractors titled, “Catch a Contractor.”
We are involved with several local Riverview and Tampa Bay area, and Florida-related Facebook community groups, so we see it all the time. Those groups are often full of posts from people that have had a run-in with not-so-reputable contractors. We’ve seen countless stories of people being scammed or done wrong over the years by roofing companies, HVAC contractors, electricians, drywall repairers, pool companies, and all types of contractors and subcontractors. We have seen stories of contractors taking money and disappearing. We’ve heard about contractors damaging property and not fixing it and it goes on from there.
Then, as we were looking to have repairs done on our own roof at home, we wanted to be sure that we found the right Roofing contractor in the Riverview area to work with who shared the same values that we have in our business. More on that below, but before we get to it, you should read about all the fraud and scams in the roofing repair industry going on across the country and right here in Florida.
Florida’s Roofing Contractor Problem
Our beloved Florida is the number one State for many amazing things, however, some things that we rank high on are not so fabulous. Just recently, The US News and World Report named Florida as the #1 State in Higher Education. Unfortunately, for a while, we were leading the way in consumer fraud and scams. A 2014 USA Today study found Florida was leading the nation in consumer fraud and scams, which included contractor scams.
A big part of what boosted Florida to that dubious #1 ranking was the amount of insurance fraud in the roofing industry. The roofing contractors of Florida were involved in so many shady business practices that Florida had to enact some serious law changes over the past few years. Just this past year, on April 7th, Florida passed SB 76, which altered the property insurance on roof damage claims to further protect consumers and most important attempt to rein in the fraud.
Florida has done a good job of fighting back against fraud and scams, but there is still a lot out there that can seriously damage your home or finances.
So, how do you protect yourself against contractor fraud?
Our Roofing Repair Contractor Tells All
We wondered the same thing. As we were looking for a reputable roofing company to provide an estimate and roofing repair on our home, we met Corey Combes from SouthShore Roofing. He and his company did an amazing job on our home, and we were beyond impressed with their workmanship, superior customer service, and professionalism.
We sat down with Corey this week to ask him about how those in our community can protect themselves against fraudulent or under-qualified contractors. Here are some of the top things Corey shared with us that we believe will be super valuable to our customers and the greater community.
How To Protect Against Contractor Fraud And Scams
Integrity, doing a great job, and doing right by the customer is of the utmost importance to Corey and SouthShore Roofing. They have a tremendous reputation in our local community, so we trust what he has to say about finding the right roofing company for your home. Corey has been on a mission to educate consumers on the dangers of contractor fraud and poor workmanship. He shared with us that if consumers know the signs to look for, they can avoid most or all contractor problems that are most common.
How To Spot A Scam
Here are three signs, from Corey of Southshore Roofers, that are red flags that you are likely dealing with a contractor that won’t do a good job or that might be problematic to contract with.
Contractor Asks For Upfront Deposit Money
Corey told us that no reputable contractor with a financially stable business will need to ask for upfront money for materials, or need a deposit. He added:
“A contractor asking for upfront money may say they do so to protect against customers not paying, but in all of my years in business, I have never had a problem collecting payment in full from customers.”
Quality contractors won’t ask for a deposit upfront. They know that if they do the job well, you’ll pay. Not giving upfront money will protect you against having a contractor taking your money and running.
They Aren’t Licensed Or Insured
This is an obvious one, but often consumers do not find out that a contractor is not properly licensed and insured until it is too late. Corey told us that a shockingly high 90% of contractors and subcontractors aren’t insured or licensed. This puts you at serious risk, however, you can protect yourself.
Florida has The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). They license and regulate more than 1.5 million businesses, professionals, and contractors in Florida. You can visit their website, www.myfloridalicense.com, and check any contractor to make sure they are licensed. They even have a mobile app that you can download to your smartphone.
To verify that a contractor is insured, you want to verify the contractor’s workers’ compensation and commercial general liability coverage. You can ask to see a copy of their Certification of Insurance. You can also ask the name of the contractor’s insurance agency and carrier and contact them directly to verify the contractor has proper insurance.
Verifying that your contractor is properly insured and licensed will help protect you if anything goes wrong, but it is also a sign that you are dealing with a professional contractor that is following and adhering to all Florida contractor regulations.
They Don’t Offer A Detailed Statement Of Work
A Statement of Work, also often called a Scope of Work, details the work that the contractor is going to perform. If the contractor does not offer a detailed document prior to starting work, that should be a red flag. This leaves you open to the contractor improperly charging you or using materials that you do not approve of. This also leaves you open to the contractor subcontracting the work to an unknown third party with unknown experience, qualifications or workmanship.
The Statement of Work should also include details on who will be performing the work. It should have a detailed project timeline. All items and materials being purchased for the job, that you will be charged for, should be listed and agreed upon ahead of time. The Statement of Work should also include a section about a “change order,” and the process that happens if any changes to the agreement or project need to be made.
Having a document that details the full project will ensure that both parties have clear expectations. It also limits your ability to be taken advantage of by the contractor. Furthermore, such a detailed document demonstrates that the contractor is professional and transparent.
What Did We Learn?
First of all, we want to stress how emphatic Corey was that there were many reputable roofing contractors around. He in no way was indicting his fellow industry professionals, but rather was magnifying those to do the right thing for their customers and what that looks like so that consumers in the Tampa area can seek them out.
The main takeaway that we got from talking to Corey is that you need to be an educated consumer. The resources are out there. Corey actually praised the type of community online groups we mentioned to start this article. He talked about reviews from friends that have had a positive experience with a contractor being one of the best signs you can have that the contractor is solid. Utilize those resources. Don’t be shy about asking friends for a referral, or taking to social media to see who your community recommends.
If you know what to look for and where to look, you can protect yourself from scams, and generally poor contractors and you can ensure you hire a quality professional contractor that will get the job done right!