Last week this column was about safety after the storm. I hope you survived the recent storms in good shape. If there was damage and a need for repair, the damage could multiply if you become a victim of contractor fraud.
The National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud (NCPHIF) says that the key is being thoughtful versus reactive and desperate. Unscrupulous and illegal contractors prey on homeowners who are uninformed, ill prepared, and unable to protect themselves. When you are informed, ask questions, and remain calm while finding a contractor to repair your home, you are minimizing the opportunity of being victimized by contractor fraud and may be protecting your neighbors too. A contractor that is trying to get away with fraud will run if he thinks you may be the one to catch him before he acts! Here are some helpful hints from NCPHIF for hiring a contractor.
*DO contact multiple contractors yourself and obtain multiple estimates for repair.
*DO NOT hire a contractor that is going door to door and DO NOT hire them based on the lowest estimate. Make sure all estimates include the same detail and descriptions for material and labor costs associated with your project. A project estimate should include all of this information.
*DO obtain each contractor?s contact and business information.
*DO get more than 3 customer referrals for similar projects and CALL THEM to ask questions about the project, any conflicts and any resolutions. Ask if building permits were pulled and if possible confirm that they were online.
*DO NOT assume these are real referrals. They may be family, friends etc. A good referral is someone who has used the contractor professionally on their home.
*DO call your Insurance Agent to verify the contractor?s insurance coverage is valid, appropriate for the work to be done, and will not leave any coverage gaps that may leave you liable should an issue occur.
*DO NOT allow the contractor to file your insurance claim for you.
*The information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests obtaining information from the contractor. I checked with Mark Jenkins, Building and Zoning Administrator with the City of Newton for their requirements. They require the contractor to have a valid up to date license with the City of Newton. To obtain a license the contractor must pass a test and have insurance.
*DO NOT accept a handwritten contract, or a typed one with blank spaces, that is missing the above items.
Mark?s suggestion is do not pay until the job is finished.
Take care!!!! Be Prepared!!
By: Susan Jackson