Hurricane Harvey sure did a number on Texas, but we will recover and rebuild. The number of volunteers that have stepped up is just overwhelming in a positive way. Helping others is what we need to see in a time like this. Unfortunately though, there will be those that are out to take advantage of others during a time like this. One of the next steps to moving forward for a lot of families that were affected by this disaster is to get their homes repaired (you might decide it is better to sell as-is). In an effort to help you lower your risk of being taken advantage of, we have compiled this list of tips for you when it comes to hiring a contractor to repair your home.
- Use recommended companies- Reach out to family, friends, co-workers, and/or business partners and ask them if they have recently had any work done to their home and can recommend a company/contractor.
- Local- Areas affected by natural disasters are feeding frenzies for scam artists. Before hiring an out of town or out of state company, support local business and use someone local. Local businesses a lot of times have better reputations.
- Get multiple bids- Getting multiple bids is something that should be done ANYTIME, especially during or immediately following a natural disaster. This will help you in determine your true costs and if you are being taken advantage of.
- Beware of money required upfront- Once again, ANYTIME you are having work done on your home, you should NOT be required to pay in full upfront. Some companies will require 50% upfront and the remaining once the job is complete. Others will take payments in installments – such as 1/3 upfront, 1/3 halfway through, and the final 1/3 upon completion. A payment to get started and a weekly/bi-weekly amount (agreed upon between you and contractor) until completion is another option that could be considered.
- What forms of payment do they accept – NEVER PAY CASH! You want to be able to write a check or charge a credit card. This way there is a paper trail and can be tracked. If a company only accepts cash, that is something to be concerned about.
- How long has company been in business- As mentioned before, areas affected by a natural disaster are a feeding frenzy for scam artists. It is very important you know how long a company has been in business before hiring them. The longer a company has been in business, the better. But if a company is “brand new” or “new to the area”, that might be a red flag to consider another company.
- Seek legal counsel before signing anything- Protect yourself and seek legal counsel before signing anything. This could be as simple as a phone call to get questions answered or even having them review the contract.
- Ask about liens- In some states, under mechanic’s lien laws, If a contractor fails to pay ANYONE who worked on or supplied materials to your project, you could be held liable by the party not paid. If a contractor has a lien against them, it might be a good ideal to consider hiring someone else. A lien waiver is a statement from the contractor affirming that all suppliers and workers have been paid for their work.
- Get everything in writing – “Get everything in writing’” means EVERYTHING – from timeframe of job, total cost (materials and labor – breakdown of both), hours to be worked each day, daily penalty for not completing job on time, etc.
- Verify License and insurance – You can check with your state office to verify if a contractor is licensed to run his/her business. Also verify they have insurance. You do not want to be held liable for injuries or anything that insurance would cover.
Anytime you are looking to hire a contractor, we recommend you follow these tips to help you reduce your risk of being taken advantage of, but especially during a time like this as we recover from Hurricane Harvey.
Disclaimer: We do not guarantee that taking these steps will prevent a scam, but it should help lower the risk.
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