MONTGOMERY, Ala.– Following Tropical Storm Claudette, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall warned customers to be wary of potential scams, fraud and price gouging during post-storm damage cleanup, repair and rebuilding.
The tropical storm caused significant damage Saturday in several Alabama counties, particularly in Escambia County which was struck badly by an EF-2 tornado.
Governor Kay Ivey has declared a state of emergency for Baldwin, Butler, Cherokee, DeKalb, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe and Tuscaloosa counties.
“Do your homework, call any references the builder gives you and check with the Board to confirm 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.” Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board Executive Director, J.R. “Chip” Carden said in a press release.
The Home Builders Licensure Board and the Attorney General’s Office also outlined steps consumers should take to protect themselves from fraud when hiring workers for storm damage repairs:
- Ask if they are licensed and ask to see their card. The HBLB license is a credit card-sized license. A sample is listed on HBLB’s website along with other resources.
- Make sure quotes and contracts are in writing. Under state law, licensed homebuilders must use a written contract. Make sure it includes the contractor’s full name, address, 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 substantial down payment up front. Do not make a final payment until you are satisfied, and all subcontractors have been paid. If they tell you that more money is needed in advance, be wary.
- Ask for proof of insurance, including workers compensation and general liability.
- 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 also warned consumers of potential price gouging in areas affected by the storm. Alabama’s price gouging law is activated when a state of emergency is in effect.
“You may report concerns of alleged fraud or price gouging to my office for investigation,” said Attorney General Marshall in a press release.
“To fill out a complaint online, visit www.alabamaag.gov and look for the ‘Consumer Complaint’ link. You may also dial our Consumer Interest Division toll-free, 1-800-392-5658.” Marshall continued.
For more information about home repair licensing and potential fraud, contact the Home Builders Licensure Board on their website or at (334)242-2230.