Rebuilding After Harvey: Hiring The Right Team
While many homeowners are eager to start rebuilding their homes and move on after the floods have done serious damage, scam artists are also gearing up to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
Following a devastating flood, there’s no doubt that unqualified home repair men and women will target desperate homeowners in an attempt to convince them that they alone know how to repair their homes quicker, and for far less money than their competitors.
Scam artists show up to damaged homes with the hopes of finding homeowners exhausted from pulling out soaked carpeting and damaged drywall. They bank on homeowners being too tired to make an informed decision.
Dealing with a flood is stressful enough, and now homeowners have to stay abreast of potential scammers, so they don’t find themselves in an even worse situation.
Red flags to watch out for
- A contractor who asks for money down
- A contractor who insists on only charging for labor
- Out of town license plates and cell phone numbers
- Work trucks with no company logo
- No local address
- No local references
- Door knockers
- A man who claims they can do it all
- Handwritten proposals
Below are a few tips to help you hire a legitimate contractor:
Shop local. Only hire a local contractor who has a local business address, and has been doing the type of work you need for a lengthy amount of time. If they only have a post office box, something may not be right. Most professional contractors have a physical address listed.
Get referrals. If possible, only hire someone who has worked for a friend or family member. Use social media to ask for recommendations and check reviews. If you don’t have any references, you may contact the Better Business Bureau. By doing so, you can find out how long the company has been in business and review the history of complaints. Don’t feel pressured into signing anything without being able to do your research first. Research online for information on the potential contractor. If you don’t find any information by using the company name, try searching the name of the company owner.
Shop around. Take time to get several quotes from different companies to make sure you are not overcharged. Keep in mind; the lowest price doesn’t always mean it is the smartest choice either. You don’t want to get trapped into a contract and have fees added later on.
Meet potential contractors. Ask the contractors to inspect the damage and talk about what you would like regarding repairs. A good contractor will also suggest things you haven’t considered. Also, request samples to check the quality of their work.
Get everything in writing. It is not wise to agree on anything verbally. When you sign a contract, check for missing information. If there are any blank fields, fill them out. Proposals should include:
- Detailed start and end dates
- Itemized project price
- Payment schedule
- Payment arrangements to your contractor’s license number
- List of services included and not included
- A procedure for changes
- Total cost
- Closeout procedure
Are they insured?: Ask your potential contractor about the type of insurance they carry. Worker’s compensation, personal liability, and property damage should be included in the policy. Make sure you see proof which indicates all policies are current. The contractor you hire should also have a surety bond. This will cover the completion of unfinished work in case the contractor cannot do so.
Verify licenses: Make sure the contractor you are hiring is fully licensed to do the type of work you need. Contact your local state office to confirm whether the contractor is licensed to run their business.
Be knowledgeable on permits: Find out what kinds of permits are required before beginning your project. The contractor is responsible for acquiring the correct permits so before you sign a contract and let the work begin, make sure the contractor secured all required permits.
Speak to your mortgage company: If you still have a mortgage on your home, contact the bank holding the mortgage and request a written approval of the contractor you are hiring. Your bank may have a list of contractors that you can choose from as well.
Request a lien waiver: A lien waiver is a legal document stating that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. If you do not get this waiver and if the main contractor does not pay all subcontractors, they have the right to place liens on your home until they get paid. Most courts will hold you liable if the contractor disappears, leaving you responsible for the unpaid wages and materials.
Don’t pay in full: The Better Business Bureau recommends staggering payments, so the final payment is made at the time the job is completed. Have a paper trail for all payments you make to avoid “missing payments.” Never pay with cash. Pay with a card, or write a check payable to the company, never an individual. If you cannot pay with a check or credit card, get your own financing company. Having your contractor suggest a lender raises a red flag. If you choose a lender who is a close associate of the contracting company, some critical information may be hidden from you. Do review interest rates and fees from several banks before hiring a contractor.
Obtain a receipt: Once you have done your walkthrough and ensured the project is complete, get a receipt stating “paid in full” and keep it for your records.
Keep all documents from the rebuilding process: Save a copy of your contract in a safe place in case you need to reference it later on.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
If you have followed all the rules for claims and your insurance company is still finding a reason to deny or underpay your claim, don’t hesitate to contact The Carlson Law Firm today. As flood claims have special rules and are dealt with in Federal Court, it’s important to engage an attorney with experience in these types of claims specifically. Let us deal with the insurance company as you are working to get your home back to normal.
There is no cost to you to speak with us. The Carlson Law Firm works on a contingency fee basis. We only recover our fees if you receive compensation. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We care, we can help.
- Written by Adriana Torres