In San Diego county the last couple of weeks have been the worst for everyone living in and around the city as the Santa Ana winds and severe dry weather conditions yielded one of the worse fires in our histroy that destroyed over 1000 homes and forced more than 500,000 people from their homes. The nations’ media descended upon our city broadcasting to the world that Southern California was burning out of control, people fleeing their homes and evacuation shelters were springing up around the county. It was horrible to witness on TV and when coastal communities were being evacuated I was shocked to hear of the eminent danger as I too live on the coast though 25 miles down from these communities. Still, the fire knew no boundaries and I momentarily envisioned what I thought would be impossible. It never happened but the thought was enough to keep me glued to television and radio for days.
In the midst of all this the local agencies and politicos were rushing to warn victims and scam artists – such as smary, unethical contractors – that contracting without being a duly licensed contractor in an area that has been declared as a state of emergency, is a felony and all penalties are increased and mandatory jail time is enforced. What struck me is how quickly all these agencies were coming forward about the very real problems of contractors willing to scam homeowners because frankly it happens everyday not just in San Diego or California but throughout the nation. It really supports the notion that there are more unethical contractors out there – who happen to be licensed – as well as revoked, suspended, and unlicensed contractors – who are ready to prey on people regardless if it’s legal or not. You can be licensed but still perform shoddy work, can still front-load contracts, can still cause problems for owners and be a shady individual. That happened to alot of the 2003 Cedar Fire victims who dealt with licensed contractors but had some serious problems and the Contractors Board stepped up their usual enforcement because of the fire disaster. Otherwises it would have been “business as usual” with complaints taking months to get assigned and resolved
The bottom line is that homeoweners every day are faced with the possiblity of hiring an unethical, licensed contractor just as much as an unscrupulous, unlicensed or revoked contractor. The difference is that the licensed contractor – if he/she is interested in keeping the license in good standing – will correct his behavior and start performing ethically. The other ones make a living out of scamming homeowners and aren’t put off by fines or the threat of regulatory agencies. And there is plenty of these kinds of individuals out there.
This is exactly what I've been talking about in regards to unethical, smarmy, so-called contractors coming into these disaster areas and re-victimizing homeowners who have lost their homes and basically everything to hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. Having sat on the "Don't Get Scammed" panel after the San Diego wildfires in 2007, these scams can happen when consumers are so vulnerable, believing that most have their best interests at heart. Not within this industry, unfortunately, which is easily hijacked by despicable individuals.