Taking Action to keep you from being a home repair fraud victim

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - After another case of possible home repair fraud, WHNT News 19 is Taking Action to keep you from becoming a victim.

A lot of that lies with you, experts say, and doing your homework before hiring someone to do the work.

Randy Cunningham, Building and Inspection Department Director for the city of Huntsville, says the first thing you should do is call your local licensing or inspection agency to check up on them.

"We can tell you the company or individual, exactly what they're licensed to do, and whether they're current," he explained.

The second thing is to ask the contractor or home repair workers to see their licenses.

"Most legitimate organizations are just itching to show you their paperwork," said Cunningham, "because they want you to know they can do the work. If they're unwilling to show it to you, I'd find someone else to do the job."

You should know what these licenses look like, though, before you do that.

county business licenseThis photo depicts an example of a county license, which Cunningham says is needed from at least one county to do work in the state of Alabama. Cunningham said sometimes crooked contractors use this license to deceive people because of the large words "State of Alabama" on the top, but he wants you to know this is not the only license they need to do work on your home.

A separate license is needed to do work in the city of Huntsville, as is the case with other municipalities, he said. Cunningham showed us what is called a privilege license, because "in the city of Huntsville you have to have a license for every trade that you do," he said.

But the big one you need to look for-- the Home Builders' License from the state Home Builders Licensure  Board. The Board has prepared a list of tips to help you find a trusted contractor.

"You have to have that license if you want to do business in the state," he said. "You're an unlicensed builder without it."

If you do go forward with a deal, he also recommends signing and keeping a copy of a contract between the parties involved. If you are a victim of possible home repair fraud, call your local law enforcement. Cunningham says your first line of defense is that contract.