LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The recent rainstorms have brought Southern California much needed rain, but also unscrupulous roofing contractors.

At a news conference Thursday, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer warned homeowners about falling victim to roofing scams by highlighting a recent case in which an elderly couple paid an unlicensed contractor $5,900 to repair their roof.

Not only did the contractor fail to fix the leaky roof, he made the problem worse by causing more damage to the victim’s house and ruining their valuables, including expensive artwork, according to court documents.

The victims testified that the contractor they hired told them that he was licensed and came highly recommended.

He was later convicted of contracting without a license, placed on probation for three years and must perform community service.

Unlicensed contractors are not bonded, typically do not have workers’ compensation insurance and are not trained to do the work, said Feuer, who is seeking more than $95,000 in restitution for the couple.

The city attorney warned consumers should be wary of contractors who show up at their door unsolicited and ask for a big down payment.

Rick Lopes, chief of public affairs for the California Contractor State License Board, demonstrated what he called a deceitful tactic often used by unlicensed roofers, who make up a non-existent problem then pretend to do the work before making off with an easy payment.

He said the scammers would show homeowners a dry towel before going up to their roof or attic supposedly to look at the problem. After coming down, the con artists would then show victims a soaked towel, whose water they say was from the leaky roof.

“If people do nothing else, make sure the person you’re hiring is licensed,” Lopes noted.

Consumers have the right to ask to see the contractor’s license or look it up online.

There are 60,000 to 70,000 unlicensed contractors working California, according to Lopes, who said his office gets roughly 20,000 complaints per year, but did not say how many are related to roofing scams.

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