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Business License, Building Permit: Tools to Protect Against Rip Off Contractors

August 14, 2013 08:07 AM
FEMA Release date: 
August 13, 2013
FEMA Release Number: 

AURORA, IL –State and federal recovery officials are cautioning Illinoisans to protect themselves against rip off artists posing as contractors as they rebuild and repair from storms and severe flooding of last spring.

Legitimate contractors should have a license, be able to display one at their place of business or to show a copy of one to a prospective customer. Having a website does not necessarily mean one is licensed to do business no matter how professional it appears. Local permit offices can provide consumers important information about how to select a licensed contractor and how to protect themselves from unscrupulous contractors.

But having a license to do business is usually not enough to proceed with the work. A permit from a local or county government is required to begin building and to do extensive repairs. Repairs and building begun without proper permits may be subject to stop work orders, fines and penalties, depending on the local ordinances enforced by communities. Permits assure residents and communities that all proposed work complies with current codes, standards, flood ordinances and recommended construction techniques; they can also serve as a form of protection for the homeowner against an unlicensed or unscrupulous contractor who might offer to do the work without a permit.

Securing the correct local building permit is the homeowner’s responsibility. Those who agree to have their contractors secure permits on their behalf should follow up with building officials to verify. Permits may be required for repairs to roofs, walls, siding, wallboard, plaster, insulation, paneling, cabinets, flooring, electrical wiring, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

Permits will ensure that the local government knows what work is occurring in their area and that it will be done to their standards.  Residents who make repairs without a permit could find out after the fact that the repairs are not up to local ordinances and they may have to spend more money on additional repairs to their property.

FEMA and IEMA are not permitting agencies and do not authorize rebuilding or repair simply by providing disaster grants, loans or, in FEMA’s case, settling flood-insurance claims. The agencies do not recommend or endorse any contractors, and recovery officials warn people to be wary of any contractors who claim they are authorized by FEMA or IEMA. They are not.

Anyone with knowledge of fraud, waste or abuse may call the FEMA Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603. You may also send an email to Complaints may also be made via the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585) or with state or local law enforcement officials or consumer agencies.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.


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