Be Careful When Seeking
Contractors For Repairs
Be Careful When Seeking Contractors For Repairs: Returning to a storm-damaged home is bad enough, but don’t be a victim twice when seeking contractor services to rebuild. 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 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.
“This is a difficult time for people. Unfortunately, there can be unscrupulous people out there,” said Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Preparedness and Response. “Be careful before you sign any contracts, and if you have doubts contact your local emergency management office or Better Business Bureau.”
Brown added that consumers should 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.
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, Brown said. Some building departments and trade associations keep lists of contractors who work in the community. FEMA recommends that residents check references if they are hiring someone they don’t know.
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. 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. Avoid on-the-spot cash payments.
- Cancel quickly. You may cancel a contract within three business days of signing. Be sure to follow contract cancellation clauses.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.