Across the state each year, many people become victims of tornadoes, hail and storms. These natural disasters cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars annually.
One of the untold costs associated with disasters are those losses due to fraud. Often “fly-by-night” contractors appear in communities’ right after a disaster and further victimize the victims by swindling them out of their precious and often limited resources by offering cheap and quick repair work. Homeowners should be aware all builders and roofers must carry a Minnesota Building Contractor or Roofers license. Here’s a warning from Central Minnesota Builders’ Association that may save you from another disaster: unscrupulous contractors.
The following are some signs a contractor could be trying to take advantage of you:
- You’re told on this job, a contract “won’t be necessary.”
- You’re asked to pay for the entire job “up front” — or pay cash to a salesperson instead of a check or money order to a company.
- You are confronted with scare tactics, intimidation or threats.
- You’re told you’ve been “chosen” as a demonstration project at a special, low price.
- You’re told a “special” low price is good only if you sign a contract today.
- The contractor won’t give you references — or the references can’t be located.
- You can’t verify the contractor’s business address.
- You are asked to sign a “waiver” for them to inspect your roof. The signature could bind you into a contract.
- You are told whatever the insurance company pays you, that’s what they will charge. If the insurance company misses some material, you the homeowner may have to pay out-of-pocket for material missed by the insurance adjuster.
- If you hire an uninsured builder, and they are injured while working on your home, the homeowner will be liable for the injury costs.
Before you hire a contractor, the Central Minnesota Builders Association suggests the following:
• Ask for the contractor’s license number and contact the Department of Commerce at 800-657-3602 or https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/licensing/licensing.aspx to verify the builder is currently licensed and to find out if they have a disciplinary history.
• Ask if they are a member of a local builders association.
• Ask the contractor how long and where they have been in business.
• Ask for references and check with former customers to see if they were satisfied with the company’s work.
• Ask for a Minnesota business address other than a post office box.
• Ask for a local phone number where the contractor can be reached during normal business hours.
Avoid contractors who:
• Arrive in an unmarked truck or van
• Ask you to sign an “estimate” or “authorization” before you have decided to actually hire them
• Appear to be willing to do the job at an unusually low price
• Only provide a post office box for their business address
• Require full or substantial payment before work begins
• Refuse to provide you with a written estimate or contract
• Refuse to provide you with a Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry license number
• Use high-pressure sales tactics
• Ask you to get the building or remodeling permit.
Before you sign a contract, make sure it includes the following:
• A detailed summary of the work to be done
• A description of materials
• The total contract price or how the price will be calculated
• Specific timelines and provisions that address what will happen if the contractor fails to meet the contractual deadlines
• Roofing and siding contracts must meet Minnesota law changes prohibiting the practice of promising to pay the insurance deductible (if the roof/siding repairs are paid from insurance)
CMBA is the resource for your building project; contact us with any questions www.cmbaonline.org or 320.251.4382.
CMBA is a non-profit professional association, with more than 22,000 employees in the member companies representing all phases of the building industry. The CMBA strives to improve the Central Minnesota building industry by advocating for the industry at the local, state and national levels; educating our members about building industry best practices’; and engaging our members in activities that strengthen competitiveness, professionalism and the public’s confidence in our industry.