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Repairs can turn into fraud

In a county without building codes, home repair fraud can become a serious problem, county law enforcement officials said.

Friday, October 15, 1999

In a county without building codes, home repair fraud can become a serious problem, county law enforcement officials said.

And, with little enforcement behind Ohio Revised Code statutes, the problems will continue.

Even in Ironton, where building codes, licensing and permits are strictly enforced, fraud can still happen, said Karl Wentz, city building code inspector.

"When it happens, our office testifies as to whether or not the building or structure was completed and whether or not the permit was issued through our office," he said. "We can help with fraud cases in this way."

The City of Ironton requires repair service providers to be licensed through the city’s finance department. But because of inspections and permit requirements in Ironton, the code enforcement office does assist in other ways, too, he said.

"We’re in contact with these people with the inspections and we follow by contacting the finance department if all of the necessary licenses are not present," he said.

While performing inspections on building sites that are registered through city offices, Wentz said code enforcement department officials are always looking for sites that are not registered.

"When we are out doing inspections in the city, if we see someone working that we suspect does not have a license, we report that activity to the finance department," he said. "That office can check to see if the work is being done with an unlicensed contractor."

Making a quick check at the city’s finance department could help prevent costly damages to a home as well as prevent a resident from ending up in court, he said.

"The best way to protect against fraud is to make sure the person has a service worker license and to check on the person’s past experience," he said. "Make sure you have a good contract with the worker, and you should make sure you have all the proper permits when you’re having the work done."

Before hiring anyone to make repairs on a home, county and city residents should review the following tips from the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department:

– Make sure the contractor has a valid license to be doing the repair work.

– Check with local municipalities for valid permits, if applicable.

– Ask the contractor for references of other local residents he has done repairs for and then follow up by calling to see if the jobs at these places were completed on time and done well and professionally.

- Do not pay for the entire job until the entire job is satisfactorily completed.

– Have the contractor enter a contractual agreement, specifying the work that is to be done, when it is to be completed and how much the work will cost.

– If unsure about the contractor’s experience, expertise or any other aspect of the contractor, do not hire him.

– Contact local home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s, who often keep lists of contractor referrals on hand.