While homeowners already have enough to contend with in the wake of a hurricane or other disaster resulting in widespread damage, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is now also warning Florida residents to be wary of fraud and price gouging during the recovery process. FEMA’s Hurricane Irma disaster relief website provide tips for avoiding scams and unscrupulous contractors, and the Agency’s general Disaster Fraud page provides some additional guidance.
Avoiding Scams in the Aftermath of a Hurricane
FEMA provides disaster relief assistance to areas that are hard-hit by hurricanes and other major storms. It also administers the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides flood insurance to many Florida homeowners. Due to FEMA’s direct role in the response and recovery processes, and due to many homeowners’ reliance on the NFIP, scam artists will often pose as FEMA representatives or make false representations about FEMA programs in order to solicit money from unsuspecting homeowners. As a result, FEMA warns homeowners to:
- Be wary of dealing with any contractor purporting to contact you under authority from FEMA. The Agency does not authorize contractors to solicit homeowners for recovery services on its behalf.
- Always ask for an identification badge from anyone purporting to work for FEMA or any other state or federal agency.
- Do not pay money directly to anyone purporting to work for a government agency. This includes inspection fees and application fees for assistance from FEMA or other agencies (there are no such inspection or application fees).
- Be cautious about responding to phone and email inquiries purporting to be from FEMA agents. These are often attempts to scammers to solicit funds or personal information.
Protecting Yourself Against Price Gouging During Disaster Recovery
Unfortunately, price gouging is a recurring issue during disaster recovery efforts as well. To help ensure that you do not fall victim to a dishonest or fraudulent contractor, FEMA recommends:
- Ask for license and insurance information, and only use contractors that are licensed in Florida.
- Ask for references, and call these references to confirm that the contractor has treated past customers fairly.
- Get written estimates from multiple contractors and insist on a fully-completed written contract (without blanks left empty).
- Do not make final payment until all work has been completed to your satisfaction.
- Avoid making any cash payments.
Another Concern: Insurance Bad Faith
A third potential concern for homeowners in storm-ravaged areas is the risk of receiving unfair treatment from their insurance companies. Bad-faith insurance practices are a very real issue, and homeowners who fall victim to their insurance companies will often be entitled to financial compensation. This includes compensation for improper practices such as:
- Delaying or denying payment without justification
- Offering settlements that are substantially less than the amount owed
- Wrongfully accusing you of mistakes or illegal activity during the recovery process
Learn more about common examples of insurance bad faith.
Contact the Broward County Property Damage Lawyers at Saavedra | Goodwin
If you have concerns about any issues or encounters you may have had while recovering from a major storm, we encourage you to contact for more information about your legal rights. To speak with one of our experienced property damage lawyers in confidence, please call (954) 928-9568 or inquire online today.