CHICAGO (CBS) — Four contractors are being sued by the Illinois Attorney General for ripping off local homeowners, and one of the operations was first exposed by CBS 2’s Dave Savini during a hidden-camera investigation last year.
The 2 Investigators raised serious questions about whether home damage was really storm damage — or actually man-made damage.
Blue Rose Restoration is one company being sued, in part, because of what CBS exposed last year: alleged storm chasers intentionally making damage, often ripping off homeowners and the insurance industry.
Workers allegedly used their fingers and instruments to create phony hail damage.
“It’s a scam from start to finish that homeowners really have to be wary of,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says.
Madigan noted damage caused to Mike and Sheila Dunivan’s Aurora home. Savini interviewed them last year and saw dents around their home.
“It looks like the back of my house was hit with a ball-peen hammer and it was not like that,” Sheila Dunivan says.
Madigan says it was intentionally damaged by Blue Rose Restoration workers.
CBS 2 saw one former Blue Rose Restoration worker in the Dunivan family’s backyard. Chris Skedd was making dents on a home a block away.
He was later arrested and then pleaded guilty to damaging property.
Other workers, known as storm chasers, have also been arrested. They make the damage so that their companies get hired to make the repairs and collect big insurance checks.
“Your investigation is great. That footage is great,” Madigan said.
Madigan says the companies her office is suing also failed to make promised repairs which left victims with damaged homes and no money to fix them.
“Every time this fraud is committed, my insurance premiums go up along with everyone else’s,” says Sheila Dunivan, whose premium increased by $600 a year.
“It’s rampant,” Madigan says of the extent of unscrupulous contractors. “We will eventually find you. We will hold you accountable.”
Aside from Blue Rose Restoration, Madigan is suing Amazing Exteriors Inc., Team-Mark Construction Inc. and AP Contractors Inc. The lawsuit seeks restitution for homeowners, civil penalties and asks the defendants be banned from doing home repairs.
Madigan offered the following tips to help protect families and businesses from being duped by dishonest contractors:
- Be wary of contractors who go door to door to offer repair services. Home repair con artists are often transients who move quickly into a troubled area. Ask for recommendations from people you know and trust and, whenever possible, use established local contractors.
- Ask to see required state or local permits or licenses. Insurance adjusters must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Insurance, and roofers must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
- Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline to check out a contractor and to find out how many consumer complaints, if any, have been filed against a particular business.
- Even if there is a need to act quickly, shop around for the best deal. Get written estimates from multiple contractors and don’t be rushed into a deal.
- Get all the terms of a contract in writing and obtain a copy of the signed contract. Never make full payment until all the work has been completed to your satisfaction. Never pay in cash.
The Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act requires contractors to furnish customers with written contracts for any repair or remodeling work costing more than $1,000. A contract must be signed by both the customer and the contractor. The law also requires contractors to carry at least minimum amounts of insurance for property damage, bodily injury and improper home repair. Contractors also must provide consumers with an informational pamphlet entitled “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights.”
If consumers suspect storm chasers are attempting to scam residents in their area, Attorney General Madigan urges them to call the Consumer Fraud Hotline at 800-386-5438 or visit her office’s website.