I will finish with housing policy this week by looking at costs of maintaining our houses once we have them. If we are going to rebuild each community with hundreds of thousands of new homeowners we need policy that protects citizens. Maryland has no oversight and accountability---it has no public justice in that State's Attorneys only become involved AFTER LARGE AMOUNTS OF FRAUD HAVE OCCURRED. Therefore, most citizens in Baltimore are fearful every time they have to call for repairs---from contractor fraud to homeowner insurance fraud. Seriously, people try hard to find an honest contractor and those few are loaded with consumers. So, we must grow our small business home repair contractors WHILE BUILDING OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY ----it is critical not only for the consumer but as this article says---the contractor industry is harmed by all this fraud.
Baltimore should have plenty of thriving home repair contracting businesses in each community but if conservative voters keep saying they want no regulations or oversight we will simply grow that industry in our communities and all the fraud will grow. A Mayor of Baltimore who really wants to grow home-ownership and new citizens as residents goes beyond just getting them into a house----they provide consumer protections from home insurance corporations playing with paying out claims and contractor fraud. Baltimore's courts are bias towards businesses and will rule against these home-owners in most cases BECAUSE----THE CONTRACTORS ARE BEING ALLOWED TO WRITE SUCH VAGUE CONTRACTS FILLED WITH LOOPHOLES that will allow them to escape accountability. People made desperate to find a home repair person are held captive to predatory business practices YET AGAIN.
A CITY HALL THAT REVIEWS CONTRACTOR AGREEMENTS FOR SOUND LEGAL PROTECTIONS FOR CONSUMERS----A CITY HALL THAT HAS A FUNCTIONING PERMIT AND CONTRACTOR INSPECTION DEPARTMENT----A CITY HALL THAT HAS PUBLIC JUSTICE DEFENSE THAT WILL TAKE ALL CASES THAT ARE VALID-------
This is a must as we rebuild each community and grow the number of mixed-income home-owners.
Avoiding Fraudulent Contractors
by Marcus Pickett
See if We Have Top-Rated
Home Improvement Contractors in Your Area
Fraudulent contractors are a blight on the contractor industry. Unfortunately, home improvement lends itself to contractor scams and fraud. To protect yourself from these unscrupulous members of the building community (most contractors are honest, upstanding members of society), there are several practices to look out for and several steps you can take to ensure you don't become a victim.
Get an Honest Referral
Your best bet when it comes to avoiding fraudulent contractors is to go through the proper channels. Sure, you might get cheaper rates from a door-to-door salesman or someone recommended by a stranger, but you should never go with the cheapest price you can find. In fact, dramatically cheaper prices may indicate contractor fraud is present in one form or another. Using HomeAdvisor, or a trusted friend's recommendation, is the best way to get a contractor you can trust. Doing so will save you bundles of money in the end, especially if your cheap alternative ends up taking you for a ride.
Watch Out for "Travelers"
The most common contractor fraud involves "travelers" that go door-to-door soliciting work they never plan to provide. Be it roofing or remodeling, these scam artists posing as contractors offer cut rate prices with a sales pitch that often includes reduced prices due to left over supplies from a job purportedly done in the area. The best way to avoid being a victim of this scam is to hit the phone book. Don't accept offers from any door-to-door salesmen, ever. Instead call at least three reputable contractors in your directory to get bids on your job. If they post a listing in the yellow pages, at the very least you'll know where to find them, and where to send your lawyers, if something goes wrong along the way.
The Best and the Worst Online Information
On the other hand, don't confuse an address listed online as foolproof evidence that a contractor isn't a "traveler." Some online websites, who lack the infrastructure to check information for accuracy, may publish an address from anybody who can type. Just as fraudulent contractors give reputable companies a bad name, this fraudulent online information gives reputable companies, like HomeAdvisor, a bad name. As the leading online resource connecting homeowners to home improvement contractors, you can trust that each and every contractor in our database has been put through a rigorous ten-step screening process. Our ratings and reviews are compiled exclusively from homeowners who actually completed a service request through our system.
Avoid Fraudulent Contractors by Never Paying Cash Up Front
An easy way to spot contractor fraud is the payment schedule. A reputable contractor will never ask for cash, and will never require that the entire job be paid "up front." If a contractor asks for such provisions, your red flag should go up immediately. A good contractor rarely seeks payment until the job is done. Anyone who asks otherwise is probably looking to take your money and run. It's a tried and true tactic of fraudulent contractors, especially the aforementioned "travelers."
Building Permits and Contractor Fraud
Another way to spot a contractor who doesn't know the business is if they ask you to obtain and pay for your own building permits. A good contractor should do all this work themselves. It's part of what you're paying them for. If they ask you to do permit legwork yourself, it's time to sever your ties and look for somebody who is willing to do the job you're paying them for.
Other Protective Measures
- Read and understand every word of a contract before signing. If you don't understand something, ask for clarification. If you don't get clarification, hire the job out to someone else.
- Never sign a contract with a service professional who makes promises that sound too good to be true. Chances are they need to create these incentives to attract customers for a reason.
- Be wary of contractors who try to scare you into signing for repairs that they say are urgent. Before agreeing to any additional costly repairs, seek other opinions.
Victims of Contractor Fraud
If you think you've been taken advantage of by contractor fraud, take steps immediately to remedy the situation. Talk to a lawyer first, to get an idea of what you need to do to get compensated, and be sure to report the offending party to the Better Business Bureau and the authorities. Fraudulent contractors give a bad name to contractors everywhere. Making sure that nobody else falls victim to their scams is the best way to ensure the greater community doesn't suffer from the same dishonest practices, as well.
Avoid Fraud, but Respect Reputable Contractor Practices
As much as reputable contractors shouldn't ask for payment upfront or in cash, they do some way to protect their own financial liability. Smaller, independently-owned contractors offer some of the best rates because they don't have large overheads or price-gouge. Yet, these same practices can put their business in jeopardy by a string of homeowners who refuse payment for a job well done. Some of these contractors may opt to take a lien out on your property, especially if you can't provide assurances that payment is forthcoming. Contractors, who protect their business, are also protecting you, the customer, by affording them the security to offer the best bids possible.
Of course all of what does not happen in Baltimore as regards consumer protections for home-owners is in another QUASI-GOVERNMENTAL organization that should be part of our Baltimore Housing Agency------THE HOUSING AUTHORITY.
If you are going to inject all kinds of frauds into how real estate moves in the city, rig the bidding process for housing needs, and if you are going to have contracting businesses operating wanting to get away with predatory building or evasion of zoning and property maintenance laws----you create a quasi-governmental agency and then say there is NO TRANSPARENCY because it is a corporate entity. This is how Baltimore has operated for decades or longer and this is the #1 issue for expanding home-ownership and having new owners feel they are empowered and able to grow equity over a long term living in our Baltimore communities.
If a candidate is working under the Baltimore Development Master Plan of only rebuilding HEALTHY communities-----ie. city center----then they are not going to end the quasi-status of these agencies because they do not intend to build mixed-income housing into what is slated as only affluent development. If a candidate does not talk about taking global corporations out of Baltimore City agencies then they are not going to fix this quasi-status because they were created by Baltimore Development Corporation just so more wealth could be extracted from Baltimore citizens. That is why a candidate who is establishment---tied to Baltimore Development campaigns to make these changes and then never does.
BALTIMORE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION CREATED THESE QUASI-AGENCIES JUST TO BE PREDATORY. A POL WORKING FOR BALTIMORE DEVELOPMENT PASSES LAWS TO ALLOW THAT.
When you have a city council President like Jack Young bound to an inch of his life to Wall Street Baltimore Development----he will make sure policy to reform this housing agency does not get through. Cindy Walsh for Mayor of Baltimore will take it to the communities and pressure city council to DO THE RIGHT THING.
Baltimore Housing Authority
- Code Enforcement Legal SectionThe primary responsibility for enforcing the zoning, building and related codes of Baltimore City lies with the Housing Inspections Services Division of HCD. When violators fail to comply voluntarily with the notices issued by those inspectors, the matter is referred to the Housing Inspection Services Division's Legal…
Tags: Code Enforcement Legal Section
- HCVP Property RegulationsThe Housing Authority of Baltimore City Administrative Plan for the Housing Choice Voucher Program generally requires that all participating property owners comply with Federal, State and Local law and regulations. Property owners with rental properties constructed prior to 1950 must register with the Maryland Department of the Environment Rental Property Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Additionally, all non-owner occupied Property Owners in the City…
Tags: HCVP Property Regulations
- Homeownership -Policies and ProceduresBuyers Cash Requirements Borrower must contribute a minimum of $1,000 from their savings. One-on-One Homeownership Counseling Requirement In order to secure funding from any of our Homeownership programs, the borrower must receive One-on-One Homeownership Counseling from a City-approved counseling agency. The borrower must also secure a Homeownership Counseling Certificate prior to executing a sales contract. …
Tags: Homeownership -Policies and Procedures
- Homeownershipo -Federal Mortgage Programs and Homeownership AssistanceThe Office of Homeownership established a new program designed to assist first time home buyers. The program, the Community Development Block Grant Program, can give qualified first time home buyer $5,000 toward down payment and settlement expenses. Who is eligible? …
Tags: Federal Mortgage Programs and Homeownership Assistance
- NSP Contracting OpportunitiesGeneral Contractor St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center seeks qualified general contractors to bid on a 6-house rehab project in Baltimore City. Interested parties should contact Carolyn Fischer at 410-366-8550, ext.267 or Carolynf@stambros.org for bidding…
- Fiscal OperationsIt is the mission of the Division of Fiscal Operations to support the operation of Baltimore Housing (HABC and DHCD) through strategic allocation of resources, accurate and timely reporting of accounting transactions, safeguarding of Agency's assets, procurement of goods and services, and sound management for the long-term sustainability of Baltimore's housing…
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- Quicktrac Permitting -2Quicktrac: Cancel an Inspection Call 443-984-2776. Press  then... A) Enter permit type See instructions under Schedule an Inspection B) Enter permit number (begin with year). The permit number can be found at the top right of your permit. C) Enter four-digit inspection code Refer to the inspection code list for a list of four-digit codes. Enter…
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This agency was created in 2005 no doubt in the height of the subprime mortgage fraud, for-profit education fraud, pension fraud, Enterprise Zone as global corporate campus misappropriation of funds. It was O'Malley no doubt POSING PROGRESSIVE in wanting to protect against fraud when Baltimore was ground zero as worst in the nation in all these categories. CITY STAT would of course tie nicely to the enforcement by OIG if OIG wanted to enforce any oversight and accountability. As all Baltimore citizens know tens of billions of dollars were lost to the city from fraud and government corruption after this agency was created.
This agency MUST WORK as we rebuild each community with housing and small business economies that are HEALTHY AND STABLE.
This was created by executive order meaning I suppose it is not in the Baltimore City Charter and it should be. Why would a Baltimore City Council not want to approve this city charter addition?
This is the agency that works hand-in-hand with the Baltimore Housing agency and HOLDS that agency accountable to corruption. None of this works now----and it will under Cindy Walsh for Mayor of Baltimore. This should be a strong agency staffed with employees wanting to work for citizens and consumers.
Welcome to the City of Baltimore Office of Inspector General (OIG)
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) was created as an oversight authority that could effectively investigate at all levels of City government, while remaining autonomous, independent and insulated from political influences.
The scope of authority and powers of inquiry vested in the OIG are, by necessity, quite broad. These include conducting objective and independent audits, reviews and investigations relating to Baltimore City Government and, in some cases, those who do business with the City, in order to:
- promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness,
- detect and deter fraud, waste and abuse, and
- promote ethical, fiscal and legal accountability.
Accordingly, this website is designed to educate you about the OIG - to let you know who we are, what we do, and how you can contact us. Together, we can work to make the Baltimore City government truly an entity that does the most good for all of its residents and employees.
Lastly, I am mindful that our efforts could not be successful without the support and assistance of the overwhelming majority of City employees who do their jobs honestly and effectively everyday and the ever vigilant public who bring forward their concerns and observations in carrying out the mission of the OIG.
-Robert H. Pearre, Jr., Inspector General
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the City of Baltimore was authorized by Executive Order which was signed by the Mayor on July 27, 2005.
The Mission of the Office of Inspector General is to promote accountability, efficiency, and integrity in City government. Investigating complaints of fraud, waste, and abuse is one way we carry out our mission. The Office of Inspector General will consider all complaints of fraud, waste and abuse involving:
- Any City employee;
- Any municipal officer, including all of the following:
- heads of City departments
- and all persons exercising comparable authority
- Any member of a City board or commission;
- Any individual, organization, or business receiving City-granted funds or other benefits, including, but not limited to, loans, grants, tax credits, below market rate property transfers, tax increment financing, payment in lieu of taxes, or other City subsidies of any kind;
- Any individual, organization, or business providing goods or services to the City pursuant to a City contract; or
- Any individual, organization, or business seeking certification of eligibility to provide goods or services to the City pursuant to a contract.
The Inspector General may, with the approval of the City Solicitor, issue a subpoena, to require any person to appear under oath as a witness; or require the production of any information, document, report, record, account, or other material. The Inspector General may enforce any subpoena issued in any court of competent jurisdiction.
Citizens in Baltimore are having problems from roofing to water damage-----builders adding additions to houses that insurance corporations then deny claims because no housing inspector signed off to this construction. All across the nation we are hearing these same reports----homeowner insurance corporations are simply denying what should have been covered. So, it is a double-whammy when you have building contractors defrauding during the building process and then homeowner insurance denying legitimate claims.
Below you see where both take the homeowner------we are made responsible for taking all this to court----lawyer's fees----and as I said in Baltimore courts almost always side against the consumer. All the while Baltimore City agencies tasked with oversight and accountability and an OIG agency tasked with finding fraud does NOTHING.
You can imagine the hardship for working class and some middle-class homeowners already stressed because of stagnant economic policy.
What to Do if Homeowner's Insurance Is Denied After a Claim?
By Desdemona Delacroix
The whole point of having insurance is so you won't have to pay out-of-pocket expenses to repair or replace any damages that occur to your house in the event of an accident or a severe weather event. Read the fine print on your policy carefully, and if you believe you're homeowner claim has been unfairly denied, there are steps you can take to fight it.
Send a Letter to the Insurance Company
- Prepare a letter to your insurance agent. You'll want to type the letter in a formal business format. Begin the letter by stating who you are and explaining the homeowner claim. Also, explain that you believe a mistake has been made, that you believe your claim is justified and that you would like your claim reviewed again. In the third paragraph, ask to be provided with the name and contact information for the person who reviewed your original claim, and ask for copies of the files that were used to make a decision on your claim. You want to review the claim using exactly the same documentation they did to ensure everything is accurate. Finally, close the letter by thanking your insurance agent for cooperating, but let him know you will follow up, if necessary.
- If your insurance agent receives your letter and still insists your claim is invalid, you can formally appeal his decision. Contact your insurance company to ask how their appeals process works. Each insurance company will have its own way of carrying out an appeal, but it usually involves a formal investigation by the insurance company. You'll be informed of the company's decision once the investigation is complete.
- If your claim is still denied by the insurance company after your appeal, you can seek legal counsel to help you go over your policy. A lawyer can help you sift through any confusing language to see whether your claim should have been covered or not, and they'll often conduct their own investigation into your policy.
- Take the insurance company to court. If your lawyer can prove your claim was wrongfully denied, which is known as a "bad faith" insurance claim, you can sue the company to get your damages covered. And if you are forced to take an insurance company to court and you win the case, you may be entitled to additional money above and beyond your homeowner claim costs. Things like emotional stress, lost wages for missing work to handle the situation and any other losses you suffered because of the denied claim can be compensated in court.
Maryland Home Insurance
I have talked for years about the homeowner and utility costs rising so I will not do so now other than to say ----when you allow only monopoly corporations control utilities as is the case in Baltimore---consumers will be soaked. I am trying to figure out how to solve a WIFI problem in my community I know is caused by Johns Hopkins and its growing hold on high-speed internet capacity. I have not been able to open video streaming on WiFi after having done so for years. So, who do I call? Forget 311-----they will say that is a private corporation----call Comcast and will they say----sorry, we are redirecting bulk high-speed internet capacity to Johns Hopkins? Of course not. There will be nothing I or others can do as this occurs more and more widely.
Baltimore is controlled by one telecommunications in high-speed---that is Comcast also known as the worst in customer service. Even if we added Verizon---they would do the same. The answer would be to have a functioning Maryland Public Service Commission----only a Baltimore branch......A BALTIMORE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION. Currently Maryland's MPSC only works to protect corporate wealth but a Baltimore branch could be consumer oriented as it should be -----
THAT IS TO WHOM CONSUMERS WOULD CALL FOR THESE UTILITY PROBLEMS----EVEN WITH WATER IF CITY HALL DOES NOT RESPOND.
The costs of utilities in US International Economic Zones like Baltimore are all going to soar and this will be a tool to move a city from middle-working class and poor----to being for only the rich. All of these issue decide whether an individual or family can be a homeowner in Baltimore ----AND IT IS CRITICAL FOLKS.
Comcast fails again: Customers are being renamed with expletives
By Mike Flacy -- February 7, 2015
In yet another public relations disaster related to Comcast’s dismal control over customer service representatives, 63-year-old Mary Bauer recently told WGN News that she received a Comcast bill in the mail in which her name was changed to “Super Bitch Bauer.” According to the details of the story, Bauer previously had poor service with her Comcast connection and more than 39 technicians showed up to help her fix the connection over a six month period.
She also had to request her bill from Comcast, which had stopped sending the bill over a four month period. Speaking about that process, Bauer said “I was nice enough to call them to ask how much I owe. I was little hot and a little angry because I never got good service.”
She claims that she didn’t treat the customer service representative with disrespect though, either with expletives or rude name calling. When asked about the name change on her bill, Bauer said “This is a disgrace to me. Why are they doing this to me? I pay my bills. I do not deserve this.”
A Comcast representative told WGN News that the incident was being investigated, but it’s not clear why Comcast didn’t rectify the situation after previous incidents. During late January 2015, Ricardo and Lisa Brown of Washington received a Comcast bill that had the name “Asshole Brown” on it. During the last verbal interaction with Comcast, the Browns had successfully downgraded their service package to Internet-only after speaking with an employee in the retention department.
After this incident, Comcast PR released a statement which read “We have apologized to our customer for this unacceptable situation and addressed it directly with the employee who will no longer be working on behalf of Comcast. We’re also looking at a number of technical solutions that would prevent it from happening moving forward. We are working with our customer to make this right and will take appropriate steps to prevent this from happening again.”
According to consumer advocate Chris Elliot, other customers have also suffered similar indignities. One woman had the name on her bill changed to “Whore Julia” and another customer had her online account renamed to “dummy.” Basically, when she would log into her online account to give Comcast money for service, she would be greeted by “Hello, dummy’ each time.
Of course, this is only another in a string of horrible customer service experiences that have been brought to light over the last few years due to information sharing on YouTube, blogs and other areas of the Internet. During December 2014, a Reddit user recorded calls of Comcast reps pushing him around.
During August 2014, a customer was abandoned on hold for three hours until the store closed. During July 2014, journalist Ryan Block recorded a painful 8-minute call of himself attempting to cancel his service with Comcast while the retention rep refusing to do so without Block providing a reason for cancellation.