Under a homre repair fraud law, which took affect this past summer, a person found guilty of defrauding an individual will face time in jail.
A first offense equals a misdemeanor and can equal up to a $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail. Any additional convictions for the same thing are considered felony crimes and can equal up to ten years in prison.
"Mississippi has needed this law for a long time and I think it will help a lot of people in the future," said Justice Court Judge Robbie Robinson.
According to Robinson, such crimes are common in this area.
"In the last five years, there have probably been maybe 150 to 200 cases," Robinson said.
We spoke with a Meridian homeowner who asked not to appear on camera. But she did share her story with us about how she says a contractor defrauded her of money to fix the roof on her house.
"I got angry with them because I thought I did my homework," she said.
The homeowner said she thought she had done her homework
because she had contacted the Better Business Bureau and two references about the contractor. However, according to her, perhaps even that was not enough.
Although those are good things to do, experts also offer some other tips such as:
- Never pay in cash.
- Be careful of people who want all of the money before the work is finished.
- Get written estimates from at least three reliable contractors.
- Ask to see the company's certificate of liability insurance, something which could help in trying to recover some money if something were to happen.
Plus, local law enforcement offers this advice:
"If someone approaches you about having something done at your house and you haven't talked to them and they offer you this great deal, well, we all know the saying 'you get what you pay for," said Maj. Ward Calhoun with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department.