County warns of post-hurricane construction fraud


In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, St. Johns County officials are warning residents to exercise caution when hiring contractors to repair damaged homes or businesses.

Residents are urged to be wary of anyone approaching them unsolicited who says they can perform repairs at a discount. In addition, the county recommends that residents:

• Get multiple estimates.

• Verify that the contractor has a license from the Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) or your county construction licensing board.

• Research the company and its reputation – ask for references.

• Check for proof of insurance and/or bonding and verify their policy is current.

• Never pay the full amount of a repair up front, and give consideration before providing large deposits. Florida law requires a contractor to apply for a permit within 30 days and start work within 90 days if he collects more than 10 percent of the contract up front.

• Read the entire contract, including the fine print, before signing and ensure that the contract includes the required “buyer right to cancel” within three days language.

• Do not sign a certificate of completion or make final payment until you are satisfied with the work performed.

Homeowners may unknowingly have liens placed against their properties by suppliers or subcontractors who have not been paid by the contractor. If the contractor fails to pay them, the liens will remain on the title. Homeowners should insist on releases of any liens that could be placed on the property from all subcontractors prior to making final payments.

To report fraud, contact the state Attorney General’s Fraud Hotline at (866) 966-7226.