The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Resources & relief

July 19, 2011

RESOURCE: Workshop to focus on fraud, Information to help protect homeowners against swindlers

JOPLIN, Mo. — If homeowners pay a home repair contractor who turns out to be unscrupulous, chances aren’t good that they’ll get that money back.

That’s why Phae Howard, executive director of the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud, hopes there will be a big turnout at a workshop today that is designed to protect homeowners in projects to rebuild or repair their homes after the May 22 tornado. The free workshop is set for 6 to 8 p.m. at College Heights Christian Church.

Howard said shoddy contractors descend on areas that have been through devastation like Joplin’s and try to take advantage of stressed-out homeowners.

“They move in right along with the Red Cross and United Way, but not everyone will be here for good,” she said. “This is what these guys do and they’re everywhere.”

She said there were 9,000 reports of work by shoddy and unscrupulous contractors after Hurricane Katrina, adding, “Those were the ones reported, but a lot of them go unreported.

“We want to give people the information they need throughout the process, so they can avoid those problems,” she added.

In addition to the national center, sponsors of the workshop are the city of Joplin, College Heights Christian Church, Southwest Missouri Bank, Ozark Gateway Association of Realtors and the Economic Security Cooperation.

Speakers will include Howard and representatives of the city, Joplin Police Department, Legal Aid, Small Business Administration, FEMA, the Missouri Attorney General’s office, the Missouri Department of Insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance firms.

Howard said the workshop will cover subjects such as how to hire a contractor, what should be included in a contract, estimates, scopes of work, building permits, lien waivers, conflict resolution, typical scams, payment schedules and insurance issues.

“Homeowners need a lot of information about what to do and what not to do when it comes to disaster repairs, to avoid becoming victims of contractor fraud,” she said. “One of the biggest things they need to remember is that the way you control the project is to control the money.”

To attend

Those interested in attending can register at rsvp@ncphif.org, call 855-2-NOFRAUD, or just show up. Pre-registration is not mandatory, but will help plan for seating and materials.

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Tornado: Resources & relief