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Miami Home Show organizers say they can help mitigate disputes

Call Christina outlines what to do before hiring a contractor

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Vendor marketplaces like bridal shows and home shows are a popular way to meet vendors and scope out the latest designs.

Some of you have asked Call Christina if organizers vet the people you see at a show.

Christina Vazquez directed that question to Adam Kayce, the director of the upcoming Home Design and Remodeling Show.  

"Vetting is very difficult because we can't get into restriction of trade or judge who should advertise (and) who shouldn't advertise," Kayce said. "But we do our best to make sure that the appropriate companies are there and that they are all in business."

If you do run into a problem with a vendor you meet at the Home Show, Kayce said give them a call and they will work to find a resolution.

"Oh absolutely, if you met someone at the show, you gave them a deposit, or they have been completing the job and something does go wrong, we encourage people to contact us directly because we -- our show is as good as the companies that are in it," Kayce said. "We want to make sure that they are doing the business and they are completing jobs to be able to keep them in all of our future shows and continue to have consumers coming to the event."

DO YOUR RESEARCH:

It is up to consumers to do their homeowner before giving anyone your hard-earned cash.

The Call Christina team has been there for you, walking you through what you should know before hiring a contractor.

VERIFY A LICENSE:

According to Daniel Vuelta, supervisor of the contractor investigation section for the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, your first step should be to verify a license.

"First thing that someone needs to do is ask if the person is licensed, and then verify with the department if they are licensed," Vuelta said. "Ask if the license is legitimate, who it belongs to, and what service the person and/or company is licensed to perform."

Lt. Efren Lopez of the Miami-Dade Police Department's Economic Crimes Bureau said you may pay more for a licensed contractor than an unlicensed contractor, but that added expense could save you from a potential financial nightmare down the road.

"If they do a poor job, or they do jobs beyond the regulations of the county, you are going to get fined by the county," Lopez said. "If somebody's injured on the job, you are responsible for those injuries because an illegitimate company will not have the insurance coverage necessary."

There are also home insurance implications if an unlicensed contractor performs a job at your home without proper permitting or that doesn't meet code. 

SHOW ME THE PROOF:

Coral Gables-based real estate attorney Ray Robinson tells Local 10 News investigative eeporter Christina Vazquez that homeowners will also want to see proof of insurance and proof that the project has been permitted and is passing inspection.

"So you don't get near the end of the job and you find out that a lot of the work that you paid for hasn't been inspected and maybe won't even pass inspection at that point," Robinson said. "And now of course you've paid the contractor well over, you know, sum in excess of what the value of the work is in place."

PAPER TRAIL:

Daniel Vuelta, supervisor of the contractor investigation section for the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, said the next step is making sure everything is in writing and require receipts.

"Never pay anybody in cash, and if somebody is asking you to pay them in cash that is a big red flag," he said. "Never leave a verbal contract, always put contracts in writing."

"When somebody is considering signing a contract for construction of a home or other building, they need to consider, number one, what is the price and how is that going to be paid throughout the course of the contract," Robinson said. "The other thing is, what is the scope of work that the contractor is actually going to perform, and that should all be well defined in the contract itself."

RELEASE OF LIEN:

You will also want to get from your contractor a release of lien from all the subcontractors he commissioned to perform the work.

In Florida, if a contractor doesn't pay his/her subcontractors, the subcontractor can place a lien on your home.

"Make a log of those," Robinson said. "And then every time the owner gets ready to pay the contractor and installment payment, be sure that the contractor is getting, not only the contractor is giving a waiver or a release of lien, but he's also getting them form all of his subs and suppliers. You are entitled to withhold the payment if you don't get it, and that's what the statute says even though the contract doesn't necessarily say that. But then we go back to the contract and that is--one of the things in the contract is when payments are scheduled to be made in accordance with the contract, then the contract should also specify that those are documents that the contractor has to deliver to the owner in order for the owner to have to make payment. So until the contractor delivers those items set forth in the contract, the owner has no obligation to make (a) payment."

REFERENCES:

"A couple of other suggestions for owners would be, when you're thinking of hiring a contractor, is to get references, and that is to ask the contractor not only just for references, because obviously the contractor is going to give you references for people that have been happy with his work, but ask the contractor, 'Tell me your last five or six jobs.' Whether you're going to get a reference from them or not, just ask the contractor to provide you with your last five or six jobs, and then you can contact those people and see how satisfied they were," Robinson said.

REPORT IT:

If you think you are a victim of contractor fraud, report it to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), your local building and zoning department and to police.

"If it is a licensed contractor, the case would be held before a construction licensing board to make a determination if the contractor is in fact guilty of whatever the property owner is accusing him of," Vuelta said. "If it is an unlicensed contractor, then the case is handled criminally. What we want to do is make the homeowner whole."

RELATED LINKS:

How to research a contractor

VIDEO: What to do before hiring a contractor

VIDEO: Steps to take if you fall victim to contractor fraud

Scam-proof home after storm to avoid contractor fraud

Call Christina team offers consumer protection tips for contractor fraud

VIDEO: Call Christina conversation about contractor concerns with Ray Robinson

MEET CHRISTINA:

Christina Vazquez of "Call Christina" will be running consumer protection seminars at the Miami Home Show this Saturday between noon and 6 p.m.