Following a natural disaster, homes can be in severe states of disrepair in the aftermath. It can be tempting for homeowners to quickly hire contractors to be able to get back to their homes as soon as possible. Natural disasters bring unique contractor situations to the areas affected, and there are ample opportunities for homeowners to get taken advantage of or scammed.
Once homeowners have established what their insurance will cover, it is time to start looking for a contractor. Below are some tips from the National Remodeling Foundation on how to select a reliable and legitimate contractor.
“A little research and some patience will go a long way to make sure you are hiring the right contractor for your rebuilding,” said Steve Kleber, president of the National Remodeling Foundation. “My wife is from Florida and we know first-hand the damage a hurricane can do to a home. We hope you find this information helpful and the NRF is here to help you along the way.”
Look for a local, established company. While local contractors may be backlogged with the volume of work following the hurricanes, out of town contractors present several potential problems. Natural disasters attract companies from all over the country looking for work. The reality is that some companies may be scammers. Even if they are legitimate companies, homeowners may face difficulties if any problems occur or warranty work is needed in the months and years to come if they hire contractors from a different state. Contractors in your area are most familiar with local building codes and have an established network of local suppliers and specialty contractors.
State licensing requirements vary from state to state, but consumers can check with their local municipality’s building department to make sure the company is registered to do business within the town.
Homeowners should research remodeling companies in consideration for their project. Ask questions such as how long have they been in business, do they have hurricane repair experience, when do they expect to start your job, and are they members of any associations (NARI, NAHB, NKBA, BBB, local Chamber of Commerce, etc.).
Contractors should provide a list of references. Get a feel from previous customers on how they felt about the project overall and if the crew and sub contractors were courteous and respectful of them and their property; if there any major problems during the project how were they handled; was the remodeler responsive to their questions or concerns; and would they hire them again.
All contractors should willingly provide copies of their certificates for general liability insurance as well as those of their sub-contractors. Contact the agency listed on the certificates to make sure the policies are still valid.
Remodeling project contracts should be in writing and presented with the contractor’s business name, address and contact information. The entire scope of work should be listed in as detailed a manner as possible with specifications for all work to be done and which materials will be used (there may be an “allowance” for items that the homeowner has not chosen yet). Payment schedules and warranty information should be listed on the contract as well. Homeowners should review the contract thoroughly and make sure that everything they want done is listed there. If it’s not listed on the contract, it is not included in the price. Items can be added later through change orders, although that will affect the entire project cost.
DON’T FEEL PRESSURED
Everyone should be wary of any contractors pressuring for an immediate full or large payment for the job or offering a discount if they “sign today”. Payments for large projects should be spread out over time, typically with an initial deposit and subsequent scheduled payments either based on a calendar timeline or progress points throughout the project.
If at any time the consumer senses “red flags” prior to signing a contract, it is time to walk away and look for another remodeler. Red flags in the initial stages usually grow into further problems down the line.
For more information, visit http://nationalremodelingfoundation.org.
About the National Remodeling Foundation:
The National Remodeling Foundation (NRF) is a charitable organization with the mission to advance professionalism through education of future industry leaders and the population at-large regarding the remodeling industry. Collaboration with a number of remodeling organizations, the building community, corporations, and industry leaders is key to making the difference that the organization co-founders Bill Greene and Jack Brock envisioned.
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