JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Northwest Jacksonville homeowner wants to warn others after she said she hired a man to fix her roof, but he took off with more than $2,000 in cash without ever doing the work.
As severe weather threatens Florida, 82-year-old Ruth Simmons' said Monday that she's terrified how the rain will affect her already leaking roof.
Simmons asked her sister, 77-year-old Lois Washington, to hire a man a man to fix her roof late last year.
Washington said she then asked a friend to recommend a man to fix her sister's roof. She said the man then came to the home and quoted $4,200 to repair the roof, but wanted $2,200 in cash to buy the materials.
"He said, 'I will charge you $4,200.' So I gave it to him, not knowing that he was going to disappear with the money," Washington said.
The man's phone has since been disconnected, and months later, Simmons still has a leaky roof.
"I got buckets down there to catch it," Simmons said. "I hope the Lord will fix it for her to get her money back."
Washington told News4Jax that the man even provided her with a receipt with a scribbled signature on it. Now, the sisters just hope that other homeowners will be careful when hiring contractors to fix their homes after the storm.
"I prayed and asked God to work it out for me. And that's all I can do," Washington said.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following advice to homeowners before hiring a contractor:
- Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts if temporary repairs are necessary.
- Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be proactive in selecting a business and not re-active to sales solicitations.
- For major repairs, take time to shop around and get several estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least one year-old and verify licensing with local agencies.
- Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street,” or who do not have a permanent place of business.
- Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your home. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get the work.
- Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name address, license number (if applicable) and phone number is included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, and never sign a blank contract.
- If one estimate seems much lower than the others and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors’ below-cost bids seem attractive, but these contracts often include substantial cancellation fees or liquidation damages if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor.
- Never pay for work in full in advance. BBB recommends a consumer never pay more than half before the contractor starts repairs and don’t pay the remaining balance until you are satisfied.
- Hire locally whenever possible. Chances are, if the company is not from the area, they are less likely to come back and make a repair should you find something they missed.