Contractor Check: How Florida is making sure you’re protected during recovery
MARCO ISLAND, Fla. – State inspectors are fanning out to check on contractors fixing damage left behind from Irma.
After Irma, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer formed the Disaster Fraud Anti-Strike Team, or DFAST. The teams include investigators within the Department of Financial Services and their goal is to identify fraud and educate homeowners’ about the red flag of fraud.
“…our utmost goal, our first goal, is to educate the citizens in Florida about how not to be taken advantage of, what to look out for,” explained Captain Darrell Wilson with the Bureau of Insurance Fraud.
Through the CFO’s office, WINK News cameras were able to capture surprise inspections conducted with the help of DFAST crews, along with other state and local agencies. The goal included checking to make sure contractors hired for hurricane recovery were licensed through the state and had workers’ compensation insurance.
“What happens is if someone comes to your property and falls off the roof, you as a homeowner would be responsible for the medical bills,” explained Captain Wilson. “So you have to make sure this person has worker’s compensation insurance as well as they’re licensed.”
First Surprise Inspection Stop
The first location of the day included a home that was getting work done on the roof. During the course of the check, inspectors discovered that the subcontractor hired by the contractor, did not have the proper workers’ compensation insurance. A stop work order was issued and everyone on the roof had to come down.
A few days later the contractor on the project was able to put those same workers on its own workers’ comp insurance and the job was able to continue.
Last Surprise Inspection Stop
The state issued another stop work order at the last location.
John Slocum, a residential contractor on Marco Island said the man he hired turned out not to have the proper paperwork.
“Price was reasonable. I never quibbled and then they started and then we find out that he has a truck that’s not his, he’s using a license that’s not his, has no workers’ comp and just can’t be here working,” said Slocum.
A work truck in the driveway advertised for “Doctor Roof of Naples” and had a license number registered to “Doctor Roof of Tampa Bay.” When we called the number on the truck for “Doctor Roof Naples,” the man who answered said Doctor Roof of Naples is longer operating. We left a message for Doctor Roof of Tampa and have not heard back.
On the lookout for fraud
In October the DFAST team received a complaint about a roofing job in Fort Myers. After an investigation, they arrested a man accused of working on a roof without a license or workers’ compensation.
We reached out to Oscar Palm-Reyes who told us that he was just doing a favor for a friend.
Protect yourself from Fraud
When you hire a contractor, make sure he or she is licensed through the state (DBPR) and has workers’ compensation (DFS). Also ask if the contractor you hire will be the one to make repairs or if a subcontractor will be hired. Make sure you check the license and insurance for all subcontractors as well.
Most homeowners’ insurance policies have a hurricane deductible. So if someone tells you they can repair your home at no cost to you, remember nothing is free. (info on insurance deductibles )
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