Homeowners Beware! Hiring the right contractor after a natural disaster is just as important as selecting the right one for a scheduled home remodel
Time is on your side when planning a home renovation. However, when a natural disaster occurs, immediate repairs are sometimes unavoidable, making your sense of selection more obscured by the urgency of restoring the safety of your home and family, rather than making the right choice in service providers.
Whether under emergency conditions or not, the most important consideration when hiring a service provider, restoration company or contractor for your home repair or service, is to make sure they are licensed or registered locally (if applicable), insured, and reputable. Some businesses that provide home services are required to hold a valid Home Improvement Contractors license issued by your local State or City agency. It is important to ask for their license number and verify with the agency that their license is up to date and in effect.
In addition, it is important to ask for their insurance information. Certificates of Insurance for General Liability and Workers Compensation should be issued, upon your request, to ensure your home and family are protected from liability. Hiring a company that is insured protects a homeowner financially, should a business be found guilty of faulty workmanship or not delivering services they were contracted for, as well as protection for their employees should they get injured on the job in your home. An uninsured or underinsured contractor becomes your personal liability, if and when something goes wrong, or someone gets hurt.
Most importantly, do not provide payment to a contractor or service provider without a written proposal for the services they will be providing, including materials, a timeline for completing the necessary repairs, as well as a payment schedule. Make sure the businesses name, address and licensing information are noted somewhere on the proposal and not handwritten at the top of a notepad. Check the information online to make sure the information noted can be verified.
Any reputable contractor will not ask for payment in full until the work is completed. Make sure that a minimal deposit is provided until workmen and materials are on the job, and the work has started. In many states across the country, natural disasters invite out of state, deceitful contractors that are looking to either take a deposit and run or bring materials to a job, ask for a significant deposit and then never return. It is important to use local, reputable contractors to ensure you are not taken advantage of, and that you can visit, or contact them when necessary.
The online world makes it easy to gather information about potential contractors. Check online reviews and social media to see how they interact with past clients and peers. Ask friends, family, and neighbors for referrals, then take a few moments to research that company online. Professional remodelers take their reputation seriously. Contractors maintain credentials beyond licensing such as certifications, manufacturers training, and memberships in trade associations. Call or visit NARIDallas.org to make sure the contractor you are considering is a member. NARI prides itself on maintaining members that uphold to a strict Code of Ethics and that provide consumers with quality workmanship and service. Call the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any consumer complaints made on the contractor.
You should ask the contractor or service provider that you are planning to hire for references or addresses of the current jobs they are working on. This will provide you with some insight into the type of work they have provided for other customers. It is important that you make repairs as quickly as possible, but it is also important to do your homework first. Hiring the cheapest contractor or someone that can get to your home in a matter of minutes may be the most expensive mistake you ever make.
Hindsight is 20/20. If you have been spared from recent storms in your area, consider yourself lucky and use the experience to prepare for the next storm. It may be a good idea to interview a few contractors or restoration companies in your area, and vet them in advance. Should an unfortunate incident happen during the next natural disaster, you will be prepared and ready to take action.
–Lana Seidman, , NARI HIC Staten Island