Every hurricane brings along with it a surge of fly-by-night operators who pocket insurance settlements after promising vulnerable homeowners to rebuild. Some demand large, up-front payments and then flee. Others perform shoddy work. Lone Star Legal Aid has been holding free legal help at community events to help homeowners with hiring home repair contractors. Max Sukiennik, managing attorney for the LSLA office in Galveston, says it’s a fairly significant problem.
“Usually, it’s a situation where work has been done improperly or money has been taken and nothing has been done. Building permits are not pulled. Roofs that are replaced don’t seem to pass inspection for windstorm insurance. And the bigger problem is trying to find the contractor or the repairman who did the work. Many of them are long since gone.”
Sukiennik says a homeowner can avoid becoming a victim by exercising due dilligence.
“We have the list of the bad guys—the ones that seem to be doing this over and over and over again. Ask for references, and I don’t mean references of who the contractor will give them, but the last four, five or six jobs that they did. Another thing I did is go to the courthouse to see if that contractor is the main defendant in any lawsuits. I also advise them to call the Better Business Bureau, and I also ask them to check with the District Attorney’s office.”
Sukiennick says disasters bring out the best and the worst in people. Lone Star Legal Aid has been helping homeowners with recovery since the hurricane struck on September 13th.
Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.