Hurricane Shutter Scams
When the winds start blowing as a hurricane nears, you need to secure your property. The best way to do that is protecting your home or business with sturdy hurricane shutters – while not getting scammed.
The six-month hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and some unscrupulous people might want to take advantage of your hurricane fears.
That happened in 2011 when the Florida Attorney General’s Office sued a Broward County hurricane-shutter company following complaints by consumers they paid deposits up to 80 percent of the total price and were promised installation no later than 12 weeks from when contracts were signed. However, in many cases, shutters were never installed.
The company entered into an agreement to settle and, according to the Attorney General’s Office, a combined more than $730,000 in refunds went to about 200 consumers. While it’s good those consumers were refunded, you don’t want to be a victim in the first place.
The first thing you need to know is that in Florida, building permits are required for hurricane shutters. State-certified contractors can obtain permits from your local building department. If you don’t have permits for shutters, you might be denied an insurance payout if your house is damaged in a storm.
The reason permits are required is to make you safe. They ensure a building inspector for your local government will not sign off on shutters that don’t meet minimal standards of the building code.
Only Hire Licensed Contractors
And if you hire someone who is not licensed, you don’t have the peace of mind of knowing the person you hire is trained and has passed all requirements for a state license. You can check on the licensing status of building and general contractors through the My Florida License website. Contracting without a state license can be a crime.
Each person doing the actual installation on your house should be state-licensed. Don’t assume that even though the company was able to obtain a permit for the work that the person who pulled the license will be the one installing your shutters. Each person working on your shutters should be licensed and the license should show it is connected to the company.
Before signing anything, get more than one cost estimate for the shutters and installation and check references about the installers from at least two or three people
Other tips from the Florida Attorney General’s Office on limiting your chances of becoming a victim of an unscrupulous shutter installer include:
- After the installation, make sure the contractor has a building inspector from your local government come to your house to ensure the work was done in compliance with the scope of the permit. If the work does not pass inspection, the company you hired should fix the problem(s) at no cost to you, then schedule a re-inspection.
- Ask for a specific installation deadline and request the deadline be spelled out in the contract.
- Beware if the contractor asks for payment in full before the work is completed.
- Make certain that all materials and supplies, permit fees and installation costs are included in the price quoted in the written contract.
- Require all contractors to provide proof of insurance.