Devastating Storms Bring Precautions of Fraud

Homes damaged by storms in North Alabama

A storm system spawning tornadoes, heavy winds and hail devastated parts of Central and North Alabama on March 19, 2018, leaving uprooted trees, damaged property and displaced families in its wake. News affiliates across the state reported hailstones of record-setting sizes causing extensive damage to automobiles, homes and property. Sadly, it is at times like this, when citizens are most vulnerable, that persons with unsavory intent will seize the opportunity to take advantage of the situation. The Home Builders Licensure Board is here to assist all consumers and licensees to guard against any fraudulent home repair or unlicensed building activity.

Chip Carden, Executive Director of the Home Builders Licensure, offers these precautions when hiring a builder or someone to make home repairs under any circumstances:

  • Ask to see the card! – Ask to see if they are licensed;
  • Do your research – find out as much about them as you can, ask for references (and call them);
  • Obtain several estimates – beware of estimates that seem “too good to be true”;
  • Require a written contract – under state law, licensed homebuilders must use a valid written contract;
  • Make sure you can contact them – be certain you get an office phone number, a cell phone number and a physical address;
  • Never make a full payment or a substantial down payment up front and do not make the final payment until you are satisfied and all subcontractors have been paid.

Although these precautions may appear to be only for the consumer, anyone performing residential construction in the state of Alabama without a license should heed the warnings as well. Ala. Code § 34-14A-14 (1975) provides for penalties and injunctive relief applicable to unlicensed builders. Under that section, the failure to obtain the license, as required, is a Class A misdemeanor criminal violation that could result in fines up to $6,000 and a maximum of one (1) year in jail. Persons in violation of the law are prohibited from enforcing residential construction contracts against the homeowner.