By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor
The scheme perpetrated by Christopher A. Isaia is exactly the sort of thing Better Business Bureau warns consumers about every time there’s a major storm or other disaster that damages homes and businesses.
Contractors from out of town swoop in, seeing storm victims as easy marks for their schemes. Isaia, who faces charges for a similar scheme in Tennessee, bragged to his landlord here that he “didn’t lift a finger” to get a $6,000 check from one of his victims.
Homeowners whose homes are damaged by storms often are frantic to get repairs made, especially if there is damage to the roof or other structures that puts the contents of their homes or businesses at risk for further damage. Local contractors may be busy, or the victim simply isn’t familiar with anyone to call for help.
Often these contractors go door to door in neighborhoods that suffered substantial damage. They talk a good game and promise to do the repair work in exchange for the consumer signing over the money they get from their insurance companies to make repairs.
But after the victim makes a down payment or signs over an insurance check, the contractor fails to make repairs and is difficult to contact. All too often, victims lose the money they paid and are unable to get refunds.
BBB is warning consumers about Isaia, who calls his company Midwest Roofing Professionals or Midwest Roofing Professional. He also uses aliases including Christopher A. Aprile or Christopher Sowers. Isaia faces charges in Tennessee for a similar scheme, where his companies were called Tennessee Roofing Professionals and Tri-State Roofing. Details of his scheme are in a BBB press release.
BBB advises consumers to be careful when hiring contractors, especially if the contractor is from out of town or is using unmarked trucks. Here are BBB’s eight tips on hiring a contractor:
- Ask at least three companies for bids based on the same requirements. Discuss the bids in detail with each contractor and ask them about variations in pricing. The lowest-priced bid may not be the best.
- Ask about the company’s insurance. Does it carry worker’s compensation, property damage and liability insurance? Ask for proof of insurance or for the name of an insurance agent you can call to verify the coverage.
- Ask whether the contractor is licensed for the type of work you need. Does the firm meet the bonding requirements of your town, county or state?
- Check with local authorities to find out whether permits are needed. The contractor should be aware of any permits or inspections that may be required.
- Ask the contractor to provide a lien waiver when the job is completed. A lien waiver is a statement that all suppliers and contractors have been paid for materials and labor.
- Ask for a contract and read it. Get any verbal promises in writing. Make sure the contract includes the start date and expected completion date.
- Don’t pay the entire amount due until the work is completed and you are satisfied. Be careful if a contractor wants to be paid in full up front. In some cases, a contractor may need a down payment to cover materials. But the bulk of the money should not be due until the work is complete.
- Always check a company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org.