Staying on top of contracted home improvement or construction projects and doing homework on contractors can help homeowners avoid being scammed, the head of a national awareness group told area residents Saturday.
How to avoid such cases was the subject of a city-sponsored workshop by the nonprofit National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud, or NCPHIF.
During the workshop, held at the Louisiana State Museum, local and state officials gave important tips for homeowners to use in the process of working with contracted construction workers.
Phae Howard, a home repair fraud prevention expert and NCPHIF executive director, said she started the organization after her grandmother was the victimized by a roofing contractor.
“We’ve seen some real nightmare situations that could have been avoided,” Howard said. “We’re doing this to make sure others don’t get ripped off.”
Speakers from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office and Baton Rouge Police Department warned to avoid contractors who solicit their services door-to-door, and to never accept suggestions to rush work.
Other topics discussed included how to deal with contractors and recognize typical scams; learning what to do before, during and after a project; how to find and research properly licensed and bonded contractors; what should be in a contract; insurance issues; and managing the building permit process.
Assistant Attorney General Stacie deBlieux noted that prosecuting alleged cases of contractor fraud can be difficult and that, in most instances, the victim will not receive total restitution.
“In most cases, very little can be done to make you whole again,” she said. “You may get compensation if they can pay it, but you lose time and have to pay legal fees.”
Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden, who said that anyone can be a victim of contractor fraud, also admitted that he has been victimized.
“It’s doesn’t matter what your education or income level is. Scams go all across the line,” Holden said. “All of us need to be aware.”
- The National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud: (855) 2NOFRAUD (266-3728), http://www.preventcontractorfraud.org.
- Louisiana Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Hotline: (800) 351-4889, http://www.ag.state.la.us.
- Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors: (800) 256-1392, http://www.lslbc.louisiana.gov.