DES PLAINES, Ill., January 28, 2021 — Following the devastating tornado that hit Fultondale, Alabama causing significant damage, the National Insurance Crime Bureau offers answers to common questions many are currently facing as they look to rebuild their homes and lives.
Q: How can I search for a licensed contractor?
A: Unfortunately, following disasters there are those trying to take advantage of storm victims and pass themselves off as a contractor. Doing a little research before hiring a contractor can reduce the chance of becoming a victim of fraud. The NICB recommends those seeking contractors visit the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board for more information about a contractor and the hiring process.
Q: An individual claiming to be a contractor came by my house and said they could get my repairs completed. Is this a normal way for contractors to get business?
A: If you didn’t request it, reject it. If someone comes by your house claiming to be a contractor and solicits business, it could be a red flag. Sometimes people will claim to be contractors, offer services, receive payments often in advance and then take the money and leave. To avoid this potential scam, ask for their business card and state contractor license number. If you believe you have been approached by an unlicensed contractor, contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau by phone at 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422).
Q: I am feeling overwhelmed by the rebuilding process, where can I go for help?
A: The first available resource is your insurer. Your insurer will be able to assist you with understanding your policy and coverage, your search for a contractor and understanding a contract.
Q: The work I need done to the roof on my home shouldn’t be too costly. Can’t I just ask a handyman to do the job?
A: According to Alabama law, any roof work that exceeds $2,500 requires the contractor be licensed by the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board. Also, it is important to know that a contractor hired to make emergency repairs can’t use that work to lock you in to a contract for the repair work.
Q: I think I am ready to hire a contractor but just uncertain what to look for, what should I do?
A: Home repairs can be expensive. As such, be certain to arrange for a payment schedule as work is performed. Agree to start and end dates and make certain these are in the contract. Be certain all fields in a contract are filled in. Leaving something blank could allow a dishonest contractor fill-in an unnecessary repair. Lastly, verify the contractor is insured to do the work.
Q: If I sign a contract with a contractor, am I committed to them?
A: In Alabama, if you sign a contract for work with a contractor, you typically have five business days after the contract has been signed to cancel if you are notified in writing from your insurer that all or part of the claim is not covered. A roofing contract must include this form in the materials you receive from the contractor.
The rebuilding process will take time to complete and does require patience. Be certain to keep all paperwork from your insurer and your contractor. Routinely check on the progress of repairs and take photos throughout the duration of the project. Lastly, take notes of any communications you have by phone, email, or in person throughout the process and keep a list of names and titles for everyone with whom you speak. For more information on avoiding contractor fraud, visit the NICB’s Disaster Fraud web page.
Currently, the Geospatial Insurance Consortium (GIC) is obtaining aerial imagery of the impacted region. As a result, homeowners that suffered damage from the recent tornado may be able to receive claims faster and get started on the repair process sooner. Insurers can contact the GIC on how to access the latest imagery at gic.org.