County reports rise in construction fraud

Shenandoah County is tackling a rise in fraudulent construction activity this year, officials say.

Building Official Michael Dellinger said Wednesday the county has seen a 25 percent increase in reports of such activity since last year. Activity includes unlicensed contractors performing work and failure to obtain a building or zoning permit.

County officials urge residents to take certain precautions when hiring a contractor or performing construction themselves. Anyone working in the county or in the six towns must hold a contractor’s license to perform construction, Dellinger said. Failing to do so means the person relinquishes his or her legal rights and possible recovery funds through the Board of Contractors should work not be completed or not meet code requirements.

Dellinger offered the following precautions for residents:

• Ask to see a contractor’s license. That license can be in the form of a county contractor’s license, a state-issued license, or both depending on the value of work being performed. Contact the county’s Building Inspection and Code Enforcement department at 459-6185 if you have questions about the legitimacy of a license.

• Never pay for a job before it is done.

• Ask to see a solicitation permit from anyone going door to door soliciting services such a driveway paving, roof repair, building projects or any type of contractor work. Anyone soliciting services in the county or towns must hold a permit.

What to look for and report should something go wrong:

• Ask for a business card with name and contact information.

• Be aware of what vehicle they are driving and get a tag number if possible.

Talk to a trusted family member, neighbor, or friend to obtain more information about them prior to hiring them to perform a service.

If you feel you have been a victim of a fraud or scam, contact the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office or Town Police and report it as soon as it occurs.

Farm structures and storage buildings of a certain size exempt from a building permit must still meet code requirements and zoning approvals before work can begin. Improvements to the exterior of a property also must receive a zoning approval.

Information on building and zoning permit requirements can be found at http://tinyurl.com/pfrcg28 or at the Community Development Office within the County Government Center at 600 N. Main St.

County staff can validate the status of any person soliciting as a contractor by calling 459-6185.