Avoid Home Remodeling & Rebuilding Ripoffs

Special Note for Calf. Fire Victims: For information on government loans, grants, special rebuilding permits, for both insured, uninsured homeowners and renters call FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). The phone number is: 1-800-621-FEMA, (800-621-3362).

FEMA will also have the numbers of all insurance companies. FEMA has one-stop-shops for all the information you need. Everyone who needs help, insured or not, must register with FEMA. The scam contractors are already moving into the Southern California’s Fire Ravaged Areas. These unlicensed contractors want to take your money and rip you off, or they are poorly qualified unlicensed contractors who do not know the fire or building codes in Southern California. ALWAYS CHECK TO MAKE SURE THEY HAVE A CALIFORNIA CONTRACTORS LICENSE. Call the California State Contractors License Board at: 1-800-321-CSLB (800-321-2752) OR GO TO THE WEB SITE www.cslb.ca.gov, you can check the contractors license by name or license number.

Insurance Reporting of Fire Losses:
1) Provide adjusterspictures of your home, and personal property.
2) Provide all documents that you have.
3) FEMA requires a picture ID.
4) Dividepersonal property losses and home structure losses.
5) Separate any vehicle losses and animal losses.
6) Include living expenses from the time you left your home.
7) Remember you do not have to take the firstinsurance loss estimate.

Remember the crooks take the names and license numbers of “good” legal contractors and print them up on business cards and pose as the legal contractor. They will tell you to check their contractors license with the California State Contractors License Board and it will check out to be very good, because they stole it from a legal contractor. So when they say they are John Jones a legal licensed contractor ask to see their drivers’ license and look at the picture and the name, they will NOT be the same. Also check their truck for out-of-state license plates.

The following article has good tips for hiring a licensed contractor and protecting yourself. Also check the Scam Page for other contracting scams.

There is a contractor out there right now who is waiting to rip you off. There are many scam-contractors who will simply talk you out of a large down payment and then you will never see them again. (I will talk about the amount of the down payment later).

Then there are the contractors who are up to their necks in debt and need a high down payment from you to pay off their last job. Most of these contractors will also ask you to pay for supplies even after you have made the large down payment. Many of these debt-ridden contractors will finally leave your job unfinished. It will cost you big bucks to get another contractor to come in and clean up the others mess and finish the job. Many contractors will not do it.

Finally, there are the contractors who don’t have a license and really don’t know what they are doing. These are the people who will ask you to pull your own city building permits. They will tell you it’s easier and cheaper for the homeowner to get the city permits. That’s not true. What they are really telling you is they do not have a license or they have such a bad reputation that the city will not give them a building permit. Look out for these scam contractor types. Many times they even use fake state contractor license numbers to make you think they are fully licensed and insured. Sometimes, when they say they are state licensed and insured they simply mean they have a drivers license and car insurance.

Here is a top 10 check list for choosing a contractor suggested by the California Contractors State License Board.

Judd’s Tips:
Many states have construction down payment limits. In California the law says if the job is more than $500 then you must have a licensed contractor. He or she cannot charge you more than 10% of the job as a down payment or $1,000, whichever is less. So if the contractor says give me half of the cost of the job up front, you know this is a RED FLAG and it’s illegal in California.

How to Find A Good, Honest Contractor:

Get references on the contractor. Look at the jobs he has done and talk to his former customers. Good contractors are proud of their work and want to show it off. It may take a weekend to do it, but it could really save you money and headaches in the future. Check the contractor’s credit. Ask where he buys his supplies and check with the companies to see if he pays his bills or if he still owes them for supplies used in his last job.

You can contact the non-profit organization called “The League of California Homeowners” on the net at www.homeowners.org. This organization has lists of contractors and does credit and legal checks on contractors. The fee for joining the league is $25. Always check the contractor’s state license number to make sure he is licensed and bonded and has workmen’s compensation insurance. Call the California State Contractors Licensing Board to get that information. Also, ask about his complaint record.

Always have a written payment schedule and a contract that describes what the contractor will do for the money, no matter how small the job. The payment schedule means you pay only after certain parts of the job are completed. A schedule could be 10% down, 25% when all the materials arrive on site, 25% after half of the construction is complete, 20% when all the painting and final details are down, and the final 20% after you inspect the property and get all the lien releases.

Also, always get signed releases for all supplies the contractor bought. That way you know if he paid for the concrete, or other materials, before you finish paying him. You don’t want to find out 30 days later that he did not pay for the materials and the supply company is putting a “mechanic’s lien” on your home until the supplies are paid for in full.

One last tip. Since California and other states do not put pictures on the contractor’s licenses, it is necessary to ask to see their driver’s license picture to make sure you are dealing with the person who’s name is on the state contractor’s license.

If you are going to put in a swimming pool or want more detailed information about dealing with a contractor on a project, click on Specialized Consumer Information Booklets. There is a $12.95 charge for downloading each booklet.

NOTE: There are good honest licensed contractors and by following these tips you should be able to find one. The contractors who advertise on the Troubleshooter pages have provided information showing they are licensed, insured and bonded. But it is up to you to still check them out with your State Contractors Licensing Board.

Check List:

  • Check contractors license with the state Contractors Licensing Board.
  • Make sure the contractor gets a city permit.
  • Have a contract and payment schedule.
  • Get signed releases from material suppliers and subcontractors.