Be careful when seeking contractors for disaster repairs: Don’t be a victim twice when seeking contractor services to rebuild your business or home after a hurricane or other disaster. While most contractors are reputable, hard-working individuals, some people will try to take advantage of disaster victims. Get tips here for choosing a contractor.
Returning to a storm-damaged business or home is bad enough, but don’t be a victim twice when seeking contractor services to rebuild. The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warns disaster victims to be careful when seeking a contractor to make repairs. While most contractors are reputable, hard-working individuals, some people will try to take advantage of disaster victims.
To steer clear of unscrupulous contractors, research the contractor before you sign any contracts. Search for them by name on search engines and sites like Home Advisor or Angie’s List where customers rate contractors. Check with your county to see if the contractor is licensed in your area. Some building departments and trade associations keep lists of contractors who work in the community.
It’s best if those needing disaster work look first to licensed local contractors who have done good work for them in the past or ask for their recommendations. Be particularly wary of contractors seeking work by going door to door, handing out flyers or asking for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.
In addition, a wise consumer should:
- Check on the firm’s reputation with your local Better Business Bureau, homebuilders’ association or trade council. Ask if the firm has had unanswered complaints filed against it.
- Ask for proof of insurance. Be sure that the contractor has disability and workers’ compensation insurance. If the contractor is uninsured, you may be liable for accidents on your property.
- Ask for a written estimate. Check to make sure it includes everything you expect the contractor to do as well as costs for taxes or other fees. Look over the estimate to be sure whether it includes materials and labor, and if there are specifications on what materials will be used. Some contractors charge for an estimate, which is understandable because they’re very busy after a disaster.
- Ask for a written contract. Never sign a blank contract. State all tasks to be performed, all associated costs, payment schedule and who is responsible for applying for necessary permits and licenses.
- Ask for a written guarantee. This should state what is guaranteed, who is responsible and how long the guarantee is valid.
- Pay by check, and make partial payments as the work progresses. Avoid on-the-spot cash payments and payments in full before any work is done.
- Cancel quickly. You may cancel a contract within three business days of signing. Be sure to follow contract cancellation clauses.