Contracting for Permanent Repairs

Claudette Reichel, Attaway, Denise  |  9/11/2007 11:28:47 PM

As you attempt to restore your life and home after a storm, the availability of local companies and individuals to perform the necessary services will be limited. It often may be advisable to do temporary repairs and wait for local contractors who will be there to guarantee their work long after the storm is over. If it is necessary to complete the repairs, however, it is important to receive good-quality work, or major deterioration may appear later. Outside contractors and companies will enter the area to offer their services. Some are honest and will do an adequate job, but be careful in working with outside contractors.

Selecting a Contractor

It is advisable to check with the Better Business Bureau, either in Louisiana or in the state and city where the company or contractor is located. It also is advisable to check with others for whom they have worked in Louisiana. Determine if they have performed in a timely and adequate manner.

Ask for proof of insurance. The contractor should have workers' compensation and general liability insurance to do work in this state, or you may be liable for accidents occurring on your property.

  • Do not pay in advance.
  • Do not let the contractor begin work until you have a signed contract.
  • Don't pay until the job is completed to your satisfaction. Pay by check or credit card, not cash.

If you cannot find a contractor willing to accept these basic terms, strengthen the patches and wait patiently until you can be sure of a good job. Even under critical emergency conditions, complete, high-quality repairs must be done, or damage and deterioration will appear later.

Contract Essentials

Contracts are the best way to handle matters. A contract is a promise or set of promises for which the law gives a remedy in case of breach or the law in some way recognizes performance as a duty. If money or other considerations change hands before the entire contract is completed, signed receipts should change hands.

  • Contract elements: Agreement. The offer and acceptance to do specific things in a specific manner. State clearly, simply and completely all that is to be done. If beginning and finishing dates are involved, state them in the body of the contract. A good item to include in a contract for home rebuilding is that materials and procedures used will be those provided for in minimum standards of the current building code.
  • Guarantees. Include what is guaranteed and for how long. Also include who is responsible for the guarantee (contractor, dealer or manufacturer).
  • Permits. State who is responsible for obtaining and paying for any required building permits.
  • Parties. Parties involved must be at least 18 years of age and mentally competent (not insane, retarded or suffering mental problems of aging). All parties must sign the contract.
  • For a consideration. Something of value changes hands, usually money. The amount to be paid and schedule of payments should be included in the contract. That schedule should be based on progress toward completion not on the passage of time. Exercise your right to inspect all work or to hire someone to inspect the work for you.
  • Change Orders. The contract should specify procedures to be used to change the original work order.

Keep a copy of the signed contract.

Withhold full payment until:

  • The building contractor or person hired has paid for all building supplies used. Require receipts for all paid bills for all materials used.
  • Everything has been completed on the job to the full satisfaction of the contract and to the satisfaction of you or your inspector.
  • The contractor has provided you with releases of lien from himself/herself, from suppliers and from labor subcontractors.

Buyer Beware!

  • Is the contractor offering you a special deal? Using your home as a model for his work? Shy away.
  • Is the offer too good to be true? Be sure the quality is there before you agree to buy.
  • Does the contractor want cash only? Find another contractor.
  • Did the contractor solicit your business rather than your calling him? Were you pressured into signing a contract? Federal law gives you 3 days to cancel such a contract after you sign it. Send your notice of cancelation by registered mail.
  • Do you think you’ve been had? Have you tried to resolve your problem with the contractor but been unsuccessful? Don’t be embarrassed to call the Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General’s Office at 225/342-9638 or the 24-hour Consumer Info-line 1/800/351-4889.
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