Recently, a 36-year-old New York City restoration contractor was charged with multiple counts of workers’ compensation fraud and falsifying business records. He was hired as a sub-contractor, but he allegedly submitted three fraudulent certificates of insurance. In another case, a Suffolk County roofer allegedly passed phony certificates of workers’ compensation coverage as he took work at job sites around the county.
“Workers’ compensation certificate fraud exposes unsuspecting certificate holders to increased costs for insurance and increased liability for unprotected workers in the event of an accident,” NYSIF Chief Deputy Executive Director Francine James said in a press release. “All contractors and sub-contractors working in New York State must have a valid certificate of workers’ compensation insurance to prove coverage.”
Wayne Bellet, who has been a contractor for years and has always had the proper insurance, says that the cost of his insurance is going way up because the insurance industry classifies his business as dangerous—implying the same liability as say, a bridge contractor, for example. “They see my line of work with the scaffolding and the roofing as dangerous as the bridge worker and the tunnel workers with the potential for grave injuries,” says Bellet, who has over three decades of experience in the exterior maintenance and restoration trade.
He says that because of this, it’s been known that some contractors are deliberately misclassifying themselves as non-roofers just to bring down the cost of their premiums. He explains that his workers are protected by a brick parapet—a low wall that prevents workers from slipping off the roof, but it doesn’t stop the insurance industry from increasing the premiums.
Bellet says that unfortunately there will always be insurance fraud in the industry, but there are ways that a building can be protected when work needs to be done. Most importantly, he says to never enter into an agreement to do work with any contractor without knowing what insurance the contractor has. To find out, just ask.