Most of our posts are geared towards homeowners. This one, however, offers advice to contractors on how to avoid elder fraud allegations on a construction project.
We like to think that most contractors have scruples and would not take advantage of an elderly person looking to have construction work done on their homes. But it happens. Unscrupulous individuals may see a gold mine of potential projects in an elderly person’s home, or take advantage of the older person’s state of mind or circumstances. According to the Virginia’s Office for Aging Services, “Seniors are often targets for unscrupulous business practices, particularly in construction and home repair.”
“Elder fraud is an act targeting older adults in which attempts are made to deceive with promised of goods, services, or financial benefits that to not exist, were never intended to be provided, or were misrepresented. And every year, people lose millions of dollars to fraud, cons, and scams, with little, if any of this money ever recovered.”
How Can a Contractor Protect Himself/Herself from Elder Fraud Allegations?
As a contractor, it may be wise to employ the following remedies to avoid being accused of elder fraud by a homeowner or their family.
- Ensure that all contracts and contract solicitations meet with state laws.
- Take extra time to explain each step of the contract and scope of work and ask the client to acknowledge understanding of each step. Include in your explanations all key provisions, termination rights, scope of work, work and payment schedules, deposits, payment terms, down payment, rights to terminate, exclusions, punch list requirements, warranties, final payment, notice of completion and homeowner maintenance requirements.
- Videotape or record all conversations and keep these recordings in a client file.
- If suspicions are raised about a senior’s capacity to understand or act on their own behalf, involve the person’s children or other family members in all conversations and correspondence.
- Protect yourself from elder fraud with clauses signed by family members that state, “No undue influence was exerted over the client,” “Client approves work,” and “Client enters into this contract through free will.”
- Ensure fair value in all pricing, without excessive markups that could be flagged by jury or expert witness.
- Avoid upselling of products the client would not need or want. If the client does desire an upgrade, provide it without excessive markup.
- Document your progress with pre- and post-condition photographs and videos. This will help build your case if anyone claims that you performed and billed for work that was not necessary.
Employ a Construction Expert Witness: Först Consulting Group
At Först Consulting Group, we don’t just work with homeowners. We can also represent a contractor who believes he or she is in the right against an elder fraud claim. Have Först perform a third-party inspection of your work to document your proper construction practices and code conformity. We will provide you with a thorough report of our findings that you can use to defend your case. We can also serve as an expert witness and litigation support should your construction dispute go to trial.
To avoid elder fraud, get a construction advocate on your side. Contact Först Consulting Group today.