OMAHA, Neb. -- As recovery efforts continue in Burt, Douglas and Washington counties following severe storms and flooding that struck the area Aug. 6-9, state and federal disaster recovery officials remind Nebraskans to be extremely careful when hiring contractors to clean up and repair their homes and businesses.
"If you have disaster=related damages, I urge you to be very careful when contracting for repairs," State Coordinating Officer Fran Laden said. "Be especially alert for door-to-door solicitors who ask for large cash deposits or entire payments in advance."
Laden cautions victims not to sign contracts or to make down payments without first receiving written estimates from contractors, and to avoid offers which seem too good to refuse. He also advised people to ask for references and to check with relatives or friends before deciding which contractors to choose.
"You should remember that federal workers and federal contract workers do not charge for their services. If someone posing as a federal employees or federal contractor attempts to collect money for their help, report the person and the vehicle license number to your local police department."
If a contractor is needed, consider these steps before agreeing to any work:
Start with contractors you know. If you have been satisfied with the previous work of licensed local contractors, try them first. If they can't help you, ask for recommendations.
Check the contractor's reputation. Ask the local Better Business Bureau, homebuilders association, state licensing board or trades council if there have been any complaints filed against the contractor you want to hire.
Ask for and check references. Call some of the contractor's previous customers and ask if they would hire the contractor again.
Ask for proof of insurance. If the contractor does not have disability and workers' compensation insurance, you may be liable for accidents on your property.
Ask for a written estimate. Make sure it includes everything you expect the contractor to do. Some contractors charge a fee for an estimate.
Ask for any guarantees in writing. Guarantees should be written into the contract and should state what is guaranteed, who is responsible and how long the guarantee is valid.
Get a copy of the final, signed contract. Once signed, the contract is binding on both you and the contractor.
Do not sign off before the job is finished. Do not sign completion papers or make the final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
Report suspicious people representatives themselves as contractors to the Nebraska Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Office at 1-800-727-6432 or (402) 471-2682.