This time of year historically has not been kind to insurers and property owners. In the past we have seen Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina as well as Superstorm Sandy wreck havoc on everywhere from South Florida, the Gulf Coast and the Jersey Shore, New York and Connecticut. This year we have the Napa, California earthquake, plus tornados and hail storms in the Midwest.
These and other events underscore the importance of helping homeowners prevent becoming victimized a second time by crooked contractors. Many of these fraudsters are fly-by-night operators who prey on vulnerable property owners desperately wanting to get their lives back to normal again.
The Coalition partners with insurers, consumer groups and government agencies in targeting shady contractors. We support strong legislation giving consumers the ability to rescind a contract if the repairs are deemed unnecessary by their insurer. The contract also must clearly state that the consumer has the right to rescind the agreement within a specified number of days.
We also want to make sure that contractors do not act as unlicensed adjusters to act as a “go-between” with the homeowner and their insurer, as well as stopping adjusters from acting as contractors for the repair. Contractors also should be penalized for offering any inducement including waiving an insurance deductible to get a consumer to sign a contract.
Anti-fraud legislation helps a lot, but just as vital is public education. Consumers need to equip themselves with information on preventing contractor fraud — and that needs to happen long before the loss occurs.
A good place to start that education is with a just-published book, Don’t Even Think About Ripping Me Off. It’s a step-by-step guide to help consumers navigate the often-confusing process of dealing with contractors and home repair.
The book was published by Phae Moore, executive director of the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud, who became an advocate after her grandmother was badly victimized by a shady contractor.
The books makes for a good gift, especially for seniors and young homeowners. Insurance professionals should also consider distributing the book to their policyholders and clients. You can order the book online at NCPHIF’s website.
I have one on my bookshelf. Shouldn’t you?
About the author: Howard Goldblatt is director of government affairs for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.