NC program provides help for homeowners who’ve been victimized

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A Raleigh woman is on the hook for $35,000 in repairs because the contractor she hired didn’t have insurance.

CBS 17 has discovered a state program that can help people recover some of the money lost after they suffered damage at the hands of a contractor.

It’s called the Homeowner’s Recovery Fund, but it has a lot of requirements and is considered the “court of last resort.”

The program requires you first exhaust all civil remedies regarding damage suffered by a contractor. It also requires the contractor be licensed with the state in order to make a claim.

Money for the Homeowner’s Recovery Fund comes from every residential permit issued by the state. The $9 from each permit fee is placed in the special fund which is run by the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors.

Board executive director Frank Wiesner said about 40 people a year apply for the program, but only 20 people a year meet all the application requirements.

You apply by filling out an application which asks for items like a copy of the contract you made with the contractor, and what damages you are claiming.

The program warns recovery from the entire loss is not guaranteed. Each individual payout depends on the claim made.

The review board only meets twice a year and it can take up to a year for the recovery fund board to hear a case.

Ashley Hutchinson found out her case doesn’t meet the vetting criteria for the program.

“We learned that the homeowner’s recovery fund only covers accident and damage inside the home,” she said.

CBS 17 Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia also has found out about a trusted source who can verify a contractor’s insurance.

One of the problems for homeowners hiring a contractor is to check to see if they have an active insurance policy.

Asking for a paper copy of the contractor’s certificate of insurance may not be accurate.

“A certificate of insurance is only a point in time document,” said Rob Blanchette, the co-founder of Certifical.

“As soon as you print out something, it could be out of date at that moment.

The North Carolina Department of Insurance suggests you request the contractor’s certificate of insurance and call the insurance company to verify, but Blanchette said that may not work.

“It’s very unlikely the carrier will divulge that information of a company you aren’t part of,” he said.

Blanchette’s company, Certificial, will provide homeowners free online proof of contractor insurance in real-time for the length of the job.

“If it’s not in our system, it would ping the agent to provide that information,” Blanchette said.

“That would have been extremely helpful,” said Hutchinson. “I would have really liked to know the company I was using didn’t have insurance, or it had lapsed during the course of work being done.”

Certifiable makes its money charging large businesses fees for monitoring their contractor’s insurance.

It allows homeowners to track up to five subcontractors at once, for free before charging a fee.

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