Protecting yourself from construction fraud; SWFL leaders form task force

A group of industry leaders is working to make sure you don’t fall victim to construction scams after multiple arrests in the HD Custom Homes scandal, leaving many to-be homeowners with unfinished houses.

Gail and Tom Hazelton’s new home in Port Charlotte is a cleared lot and some foam panels, but they feel like the walls are caving in.

“We were expecting to have a house built at least within a year,” Gail said. “Over 50,000 (dollars) is gone already and we don’t know if we’re ever going to have anything.”

Construction scams are happening too often in Southwest Florida with people like Tina and Daniel McAtee of Rotonda West losing their life savings.

“We are losing over $200,000 with this build because we have to pay another builder to complete it,” Tina said.

State Attorney Amira Fox and Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell have joined forces with industry experts to form the Contractor/Construction Fraud Task Force.

They “will assess issues, share information, and identify best practices with law enforcement agencies, elected officials, and construction professionals circuit-wide to ensure effective investigations and successful prosecutions of construction fraud,” Fox said.

Step one when hiring to build your home is making sure you know how to prepare by protecting yourself with proper insurance, getting feedback from other clients and paying attention to the small details in your contract.

“The main thing is to hire an attorney to look over your contract,” Gail said.

“We’re going to try to bring their ideas and their concerns to the table,” said Bill Truex, president of Truex Preferred Construction.

He said as they address what needs to be handled throughout the state, they’ll take your experiences to spark change.

“There are red flags and there are resources,” said Daniel McAtee.

Construction is a $50 billion industry in Florida, and consumers say their number one fear is getting ripped off.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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