Jeanette A. Tucker | 7/17/2008 11:41:24 PM
Homeowners often face home rebuilding or repair needs in the wake of disasters like floods and hurricanes. If you are trying to put your life back in order and don’t feel you are in a state of mind to make sound decisions, ask a friend, family member or professional consultant to assist you. Selecting a competent contractor to make home repairs is one of the most important things you will need to do to put your home and life back in order.
Employ only licensed contractors. Unlicensed contractors are not regulated and may not have the skills or knowledge to repair damage properly. Additionally, your options are limited if you use unlicensed contractors and are not satisfied with their performance.
To verify that a contractor is licensed, check with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at 225-765-2301. A professional residential builder constructing a project over $50,000 must be licensed and must obtain workers' compensation insurance and general liability insurance. A remodeler or subcontractor providing construction, alteration, renovation repair, removal or demolition to an owner-occupied building in excess of $7,500 must be registered as a home improvement contractor.
As you attempt to restore your life and home after a storm, the availability of local companies and licensed contractors to perform the necessary services may 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 workers are likely to enter the area after a disaster to offer their services. Some are honest and will do an adequate job, but be careful in working with outside contractors. It is advisable, if possible, to check with the Better Business Bureau, either in Louisiana or in the state and city where the company or person is located, to determine if there are complaints against contractors under consideration. It is also advisable to check with at least three references for whom the contractor under consideration has completed work. Determine if they have performed in a timely manner and review the quality of their workmanship.
Shop around. Get at least three written bids or estimates. Compare both prices and terms. Also ask for proof of insurance. The contractor should have workers' compensation and general liability insurance or you may be liable for any accidents on your property.
Before work begins, sign a contract, which outlines all conditions of the work including time and payment schedules, work to be completed, materials to be provided and other items important to the project. Make certain you get all promises in writing; oral contracts are very difficult to enforce. For major projects you may want to have an attorney review the contract before you sign.
Elements of the contract include:
Be sure to keep a copy of the signed contract. Withhold final payment until:
Beware of contractors who solicit your business. Only do business with contractors with whom you have made the initial contact. Were you pressured into signing a contract? Federal law gives you three days to cancel such a contract after you sign it. Send your notice of cancellation by registered mail.
If your contractor fails to live up to the terms of the contract, try to resolve the problem with him directly. If you are unsuccessful, contact the Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General’s Office at 800-351-4889. In Baton Rouge, the local number is 225-326-6465.
Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into hiring a contractor with whom you don’t feel comfortable. Take your time and find a contractor with a good reputation and with whom you feel comfortable. You will live with the work done by that contractor for a long time.