CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the department of labor, licensing and regulation want to warn South Carolina property owners about scams following Hurricane Dorian.
“We understand that consumers will be anxious to get the work done quickly," Janet Baumberger, Administrator of the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission said. “But, we want to remind you to take necessary precautions when hiring repair people.”
Officials say the biggest issues the commission sees are homeowners paying too much in advance and hiring unlicensed contractors.
The unlicensed practice of residential or commercial building in this state is a misdemeanor punishable by a jail sentence and/or a monetary fine pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 40-59-200 and § 40-11-200 respectively, Baumberger said.
“Honest contractors do not require large sums of money upfront,” she added. “A scam artist will take your money and not perform the service as promised.”
The department also offered the following tips:
- Take photographs of damage before repairs.
- Ensure that the person or business has the appropriate professional license to engage in the work offered by going to “Licensee Lookup” at www.llr.sc.gov.
- If you have a question about whether the scope of work requires a license, call 803-896-4696. Many agencies or organizations may not provide reimbursement assistance to property owners if the individual or company with whom they contract does not hold the required licenses.
- Do not panic and hire someone because they are the only company who can come out to your home or business immediately.
- After assessing damage, contact local building departments for information on required permits. Your local building department has jurisdiction regarding the proper permitting for the project as well as whether and what types of inspections are required to ensure that minimum building codes are followed.
- If possible, obtain recommendations from family, friends or co-workers and require that the builder provide you with a list of professional references you can contact. The Better Business Bureau is also a source you may wish to utilize at www.bbb.org.
- Report unlicensed builders to LLR and your local building department
- Hire only state licensed, registered and insured contractors. Additionally, depending on the scope of work being performed, residential builders and specialty contractors in this state are required to have a bond on file with the Residential Builders Commission. Anyone doing construction work must be licensed or registered by LLR.
- Don’t pay all money upfront. Wait until the work is done and you have carefully inspected it.
- Ask for a Photo ID and their SC license or registration. Write down the information and keep it in a safe place. There is no good excuse for not showing a S.C. license or registration card.
- Verify that there is no cost for an estimate before letting anyone into your home or business. View the area with the contractor and take notes.
- Don’t rely on verbal promises. If possible, get more than one estimate. Make sure price comparisons are for the same procedures and materials.
- Beware of any contractor who solicits business saying he/she “has material left over from another job in the area and can give you a real good price.” This is a sign you may be dealing with an unlicensed contractor or scam artist.
- Make temporary repairs to correct safety hazards. However, be wary of contractors who encourage you to spend a lot of money on temporary repairs – make sure you have enough money for permanent repairs.
- Take your time signing a contract. Don’t automatically select the lowest bidder, and make sure you fully understand any price variations.
- Require receipts for any payments made and retain those receipts for your records