Unfortunately, after a disaster like Hurricane Michael, many service providers will flock to the area trying to pick up as much work as possible while it is available. Some will be legitimate, licensed contractors. Others will not. Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Some service providers will try to take advantage of a homeowner's need to have their damage repaired as soon as possible combined with their lack of knowledge about licensing and liens. Here are some tips when considering which contractor to hire to repair your damage from Hurricane Michael:
Verify the Contractor's License
Any contractor providing repairs after Hurricane Michael must be licensed in the State of Florida. You can verify a contractor's license by calling the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 487-1395. Be sure to report any unlicensed contractors who are trying to solicit work in areas affected by Hurricane Michael at (866) 532-1440 or at [email protected]. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation will also have a record of any complaints lodged against the contractor, which you should ask for as well. You can also ask for references for the contractor. Hire only licensed, reputable contractors and be cautious of any contractor who asks you to pay for the entirety of the work upfront.
Beware of Florida's Construction Lien Laws
Under Florida law, contractors, laborers, materials suppliers, and subcontractors, can all have the right to file a claim of lien for work or materials provided in the repair of your home if they go unpaid. Meaning, if you pay your general contractor and he fails to pay his subcontractors, any one of them could file a lien against your property that you may be responsible for. The lien could be valid even though you already paid your primary contractor in full. Protect yourself from paying twice by understanding Florida's construction lien law.
- The law concerning construction liens is found in Title XL, Chapter 713 of the Florida Statutes: http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2014/Chapter713
- You can learn more about lien laws here: https://www.floridabar.org/public/consumer/pamphlet005/#ConstructionLiens
Avoid Signing an Assignment of Benefits
Signing an Assignment of Benefits assigns your right to recover benefits under your policy to your contractor, and it can have a severe impact on your ability to recover from your insurance company. Many contractors will often agree to forgo payment for services if you will sign an Assignment of Insurance Benefits. This usually means you give the contractor all your rights as the policyholder. If you hire a contractor and assign benefits to him, you may no longer have the legal right to make decisions and recover your insurance benefits directly. This can become especially problematic if you and your contractor have a dispute. Do not sign an Assignment of Benefits without having an experienced insurance attorney review it first to give you advice.
At Taylor, Warren & Weidner, we never charge any fee or cost to evaluate your insurance claim and advise you of your rights. If you have a question about your insurance claim or repairs from Hurricane Michael, do not hesitate to contact us. (850) 438-4899