Unlicensed contractors targeting DeLand tornado victims, sheriff warns

DeLAND, Fla. – Debris from Tuesday’s EF-2 tornado hadn’t even settled yet, when Alvin Azama and his neighbors said people swarmed Kensington Avenue, soliciting their services.

“I had so many business cards at my door, it wasn’t even funny,” Azama said. “It’s inconsiderate because you don’t even have time to think what actually went on and assess the damage yourself before everybody is in your face and asking questions and wanting to help you, supposedly.”

Azama said his alarm bells went off when the person asked him to immediately sign a contract to fix his damaged roof.

“They want to give you a free estimate on your roof damage and then when you do that, then they want you to sign a contract. I just feel like it’s all scams,” he said.

The Ef-2 tornado whipped through DeLand on Aug. 18 causing $7.4 million in damages to homes and businesses but, thankfully, no one was injured.

Lonnie Clifton lives across the street from Azama and said he turned down anyone who knocked on his door. Instead, he relied on a neighbor’s roofer who told him he didn’t even need a new roof.

“He put a sign in the front yard and he says, ‘That will keep most of them away.’ They see that you have already contacted someone, he says ‘You won’t have those people knocking on your door,‘” said Clifton.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood along with local builders rallied together on Friday and urged residents to research before hiring anyone off the street.

“You’re going to see a proliferation of unlicensed contractors. They’ve gotten some reports of price gauging,” he said.

Among the builders was Deltona City Commissioner Anita Bradford who is also the owner of a local construction company. Bradford said homeowners can check the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, as well as other resources to find a legitimate contractor.

“Ask for one, two or three quotes. Go online and go to the Volusia Building and Nursery Association’s website. See if they are listed as a credible Volusia Bidding Industry Association member. Go to the DBPR’s website and you can put into the DBPR’s website and you can verify if that person a licensed contractor,” said Bradford.

Chitwood said he wants to protect residents and make sure they aren’t the target of unlicensed contractors.

“We want to protect our residents financially, we want to protect their personal safety and we want to safeguard their property to make sure that the work is done correctly,” said Sheriff Chitwood.

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