Recovering from the storm
It took only a few minutes for a tornado to rip through Jacksonville, destroying homes, businesses, utilities and public facilities. The cleanup efforts began the morning after the March 19 storm, and they are expected to continue for months. Hundreds of volunteers have been working throughout the community to clear debris and restore some semblance of normality.
Homeowners and business owners will continue to reach out to professionals to help with this work, and now is the time to be especially careful when hiring those professions. Human nature being what it is, scoundrels and con artists may be offering to do jobs they have no intention of completing.
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office has set up a help line for people who believe they may have been defrauded. You can reach them at 1-800-392-5658. I have also included a link to the entire press release from that office at the end of this blog.
If you believe you have been defrauded and can claim damages in civil court, you need to talk to an attorney right away. The sooner you get the process started, the sooner you can recover your damages and get on with your life.
Disasters bring out both the worst and the best in humanity. Lots of groups are still working to help the people of Jacksonville as they recover from the storms. One of the groups that has been especially helpful is the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, on whose board I have the privilege to serve. Here’s a link to the Foundation’s web site set up especially for this purpose:
Alabama Attorney General
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2018
For More Information, contact:
Mike Lewis (334) 353-2199
Joy Patterson (334) 242-7491
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501 Washington Avenue Montgomery, AL 36104 (334) 242-7300
AG STEVE MARSHALL, HOME BUILDERS LICENSURE BOARD WARN AGAINST
HOME REPAIR FRAUD FOLLOWING STORM DAMAGE IN NORTH ALABAMA
(MONTGOMERY) –Attorney General Steve Marshall and Home Builders Licensure Board
Executive Director J.R. “Chip” Carden Jr. are warning against possible home repair fraud and
unlicensed builders in the wake of tornadoes and severe weather that caused widespread
serious damage throughout parts of north and central Alabama* on Monday. They were joined
by Jimmy Rutland, president of the Home Builders Association of Alabama; Alabama State Fire
Marshall Scott Pilgreen; Brian Powell, director of the Strengthen Alabama Homes Division of
the Alabama Department of Insurance; and Brian E. Hastings, director of the Alabama
Emergency Management Agency.
“The good people of Alabama are strong and determined, and we come together in times of
crisis such as this,” said Attorney General Marshall. “In the devastation left by these storms,
there is much rebuilding to be done. As we move forward, it is important that consumers are
mindful that unscrupulous people may seek to take advantage of their misfortune. To those
who have suffered damage, we urge you to take precautions for your protection, and to those
who would take advantage of this disaster, we warn that home repair fraud is a serious crime
that will not be tolerated.”
“Do your homework,” Carden advised. “Call any references the builder gives you, and check
with the licensure board to see if a builder is licensed and in good standing. Don’t be in a rush.
A bad decision now can make a difficult situation even worse.”
They recommended that consumers take the following precautions when hiring a builder or
someone to make home repairs:
Find out as much as you can about them, especially if they make unsolicited contact
with you or have come from out-of-town after a natural disaster.
Ask for proof that they are bonded or insured.
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Ask if they are licensed. Ask to see the card! For residential construction over $10,000 a
builder must be licensed by the Home Builders Licensure Board. Plumbers, HVAC
contractors and electricians must be licensed by the state regardless of the cost of work.
There also may be local permitting and license requirements, so check with local city or
county government You may check with the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board
to see if a contractor is licensed by calling 1-800-304-0853, or by visiting
Ask if this particular job requires a permit and contact your local city and county
government to see if a permit is required. Do not let them talk you into applying for a
homeowner’s permit. If they do not want to be known to local officials, they may be
hiding a bad reputation.
Obtain several written estimates. Beware of estimates that are well below the market
price or seem “too good to be true.”
Ask for references. Get names and addresses, and call them.
Require a written contract. Under state law, licensed homebuilders must use a written
contract. Make sure it includes the contractor’s full name, address, and telephone
number; a description of the work to be performed; starting and estimated completion
dates; and the total cost of the job.
NEVER make a full payment or a substantial down payment up front. Do not make final
payment until you are satisfied and all subcontractors have been paid. If they tell you
more money is needed in advance, be wary. They should be able to pay for supplies or
have credit to make necessary purchases until you compensate them afterward.
Make sure you can contact them. Be certain to get an office number and a cell phone
number, and a physical address. Businesses with established addresses may be safer.
Attorney General Marshall urges consumers and officials to report any problems of
alleged fraud or scams to his consumer protection office by calling toll-free 1-800-392-5658, by
writing to 501 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama, 36130, or though the Attorney
General’s main web page at www.ago.alabama.gov.
*A State of Emergency was declared for the following counties in Alabama: Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, Clay,
Cleburne, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence,
Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, Randloph, Shelby, St. Clair, Talladega, Walker and Winston.
Here are links to two photos from today’s news conference: