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Tips to avoid construction scams or fraud

When you do pick a contractor, verify their license and insurance. You can text the Louisiana State Licensing Board to make sure your contractor is legit.

HARAHAN, La. — Contractors in Southeast Louisiana are backed up for months right now, with tens of thousands of homes in need of repair.

But there’s no need to get lost in a sea of blue tarps when looking for trustworthy workers. There are some steps you can take to keep yourself from becoming a victim of any construction scams or fraud.

Melissa Roberts co-owner of Roberts Family All-State in Harahan, said although she and her sister’s phones haven’t stopped ringing since landfall, she’s happy to share advice.

“Definitely look into references, talk to your neighbors, talk to your friends, family, use somebody that people know,” said Roberts.

Some of the most common advice before you sign a contract:

  • Ask friends and neighbors for references
  • Get at least three bids for the work before you start
  • Be cautious of contractors going door to door
  • Be cautious of offers that seem too good to be true
  • Check the Better Business Bureau for any negative reports on the company’s record

When you do pick a contractor, verify their license and insurance. You can text the Louisiana State Licensing Board to make sure your contractor is legit.

Do so by texting the company’s name or license number to 1-855-999-7896. The application is free to use. If your search does not find a licensed contractor, the application will reply, “no company was found.”

You can also verify a Louisiana contractor’s licensure online. (https://lslbc.louisiana.gov/contractor-search/)

If your contractor is from out of state, look on that state’s licensing board website and search the company’s name. You can find the website for Texas here. (https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/verify.htm)

You can find the website for Mississippi here. (http://search.msboc.us/ConsolidatedSearch.cfm )

A company’s insurance is very important. If there’s a lapse in coverage, you could be responsible for any incidents on your property.

When that’s squared away, the contract comes into play. 

  • Get everything in writing, including a description of the work and total cost.
  • Make sure you keep a copy.

“You want to save everything for your records, and for the insurance records, and even for FEMA,” said Roberts.

Next, the Louisiana Attorney General says it’s wise to get photos of everything. Take a picture of your contractor’s ID, business card, vehicle, and credentials.

  • Never pay in full right away, and never pay cash. 
  • Pay with a check or credit card and keep your receipt. 

The Louisiana AG said any contractor that asks you to put down more than 25 percent of the total cost of the project should send up a red flag.

While taking all these steps may seem like a chore when there’s so much going on, it may save you a lot of frustration and money in the long run.

If you believe you’ve been scammed by a contractor, you can report them to the licensing board online.

The Louisiana State Licensing Board has a full guide with even more information:

https://lslbc.louisiana.gov/wp-content/uploads/weathering_the_storm.pdf

The attorney general’s office does as well:

https://www.ag.state.la.us/Files/Article/272/Documents/ContractorFraud.pdf