Contractors Disaster Alert Podcast Transcript
Welcome to the Informed Consumer, providing the latest tips and tools to assist consumers in making informed decisions, from the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch.
Today’s topic is: Contractors, Dealing with Them After A Disaster.
The aftermath of severe storm damage often results in an increase in consumer complaints resulting from contractor fraud or shoddy repairs by unlicensed contractors.
Not all contractors operate within the law. Unlicensed contractors often show up at your door after a disaster. Here are some warning signs. Beware of unlicensed contractors who:
- Solicit door-to-door
- Just happen to have materials left over from a previous job
- Pressure you into making an immediate decision
- Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front
- Only accept cash payments
- Ask you to obtain required building permits
Your home is likely to be your most valuable financial asset – that’s why you must be extra careful when you hire someone to work on it.
- Any contractor seeking work through home solicitation must carry a solicitor license issued by the Fairfax County Department of Cable and Consumer Services, Regulation and Licensing Branch. You may contact them at 703-324-5966.
- Always ask to see a copy of a contractor’s license from the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, or DPOR, Board for Contractors. You may check for a valid contractor’s license at www.state.va.us/dpor, or by calling 804-367-8511.
- Check a contractor’s licensing credentials. Write down the license number, expiration date, name of the licensee, address and phone numbers. Make sure the contractor has a current physical address, not a P.O. Box.
- Find out how long the contractor has held a license and check for any disciplinary action taken by DPOR.
- Make sure the contractor has a personal liability insurance policy and verify it with the contractor’s insurance agent.
- Call the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Permits Branch, at 703-324-1555, to determine whether a permit is necessary for the intended work. Ask for information on each contractor’s licensing and disciplinary status.
- Obtain bids from three contractors, ask for three references from each, and find out if the contractor provided a monetary discount or payment in exchange for using a consumer as a reference.
- Insist on a detailed written contract with a start date and completion date.
- Do not pay cash.
- Do not sign anything that you do not understand.
- Do not pay cash.
- Do not rely on verbal agreements.
- Limit your deposit to no more than 30 percent of the total contract price. Do not allow payments to get ahead of the work.
- Do not succumb to high pressure or scare tactics, over-friendly sales pitches, left over materials, or escalating prices.
- Search the Consumer Affairs Branch complaint history files online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer to locate any complaints previously filed against a contractor.
Thanks for listening to the Informed Consumer. For more information on this topic or if you feel that you’ve been a victim of a scam, please contact the Consumer Affairs Branch at 703-222-8435 or visit our web site at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer. Informed Consumer is produced by the Fairfax County, Virginia, government.