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Officials arrest five unlicensed contractors for construction fraud after Irma

Officials in Hillsborough County, Fla., have arrested and charged five unlicensed contractors for contracting without a license during a state of emergency following Hurricane Irma, according to www.constructiondive.com.

An investigation into construction fraud began in June, and authorities have charged 73 additional contractors in the Tampa Bay area pre- and post-Irma. The three-month investigation was part of a Homeland Security Division Construction Fraud Unit initiative.

In an undercover operation, law enforcement posed as customers who wanted construction work done, leading to the contractors' arrests.

Unlicensed contractors often flood areas after a disaster, offering their services to victims at low prices. Contractors operating outside contracting laws sometimes are able to offer a quicker turnaround than construction companies who have to pull permits and follow other state and local regulations. Even homebuilders in Texas, which is light on contractor licensing, are experiencing years-long backlogs in repairs after Hurricane Harvey.

After Hurricane Irma, Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) made it temporarily legal for state-licensed general, building and residential contractors to perform those repairs—work that typically is limited to contractors who hold a specialty roofing license.

Two of the biggest challenges facing consumers and contractors are a lack of national oversight regarding roofing contractors and state fluctuations in insurance requirements.

To help address these issues, some states are creating laws to help eliminate unsavory practices among unlicensed contractors. Kansas, which is located in Tornado Alley, enacted a law that requires roofing contractors to register with the state. Additionally, Kentucky passed a bill to help protect homeowners from contractors who damage a roof further to increase the job's scope.

NRCA's consumer website, everybodyneedsaroof.com, offers information for homeowners regarding how to handle roof repairs after a natural disaster, including how to choose a professional contractor. For more information, click here.


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