Choose Contractors Carefully

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Release date: 
July 23, 2003
Release Number: 
Mesa, AZ (July 23, 2003) -- As Pima County recovers from its latest disaster, property owners who suffered damages from the Aspen Fire are seeking contractors to help clean up, repair, or rebuild their homes and businesses. Disaster recovery officials from Pima County, the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have this important advice: Be extra careful when hiring unknown contractors.

"People should be especially alert for door-to-door solicitors who hand out flyers and promise to speed up the insurance or the county permit process, and those who ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full," warned Kim Janes, of Pima County's Office of Emergency Management.

"Look first to licensed local contractors who have performed well in the past. If they cannot help you, ask them to recommend reputable contractors," added Frank Navarrete, state coordinating officer for ADEM.

Pima County is establishing a list of contractors qualified to perform debris removal and associated tasks. The list will be available to Summerhaven residents shortly. Residents are welcome to contact a contractor from the list, or to work with their own contractor.

"Whether they are architectural, engineering, electrical, or general contractors, most service providers in the building industry are honest," said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael J. Hall, "but disasters attract scam artists. Some claim to be 'FEMA certified,' when, in fact, FEMA neither certifies nor endorses any contractor."

Some additional tips:

Get a written estimate. Compare services and prices before making a final decision. Also, read the fine print. Some contractors charge a fee for a written estimate, which is often applied to the price of subsequent repairs they make.

Check references. Contractors should be willing to provide the names of previous customers. Call several former customers who had similar work done to make sure they were satisfied with the job.

Ask for proof of insurance. Make sure the contractor carries general liability insurance and workers' compensation. If the contractor is not insured, the homeowner may be liable for accidents that occur on the property.

Use reliable, licensed contractors. Call the state Register of Contractors (ROC), toll-free, at 1-888-271-9286 to inquire about a business before signing a contract. The ROC website is:

Insist on a written contract. A complete contract should clearly state all the tasks to be performed, all associated costs and the payment schedule. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces. Make sure the contract clearly states who will apply for the necessary permits or licenses. Have a lawyer review the contract if substantial costs are involved, and keep a copy for your records.

Get any guarantees in writing. Any guarantees made by the contractor should be written into the contract. The guarantee should clearly state what is guaranteed, who is responsible for the guarantee and how long the guarantee is valid.

Obtain a local building permit if required. Summerhaven residents will not be required to obtain a demolition permit for debris removal. Permits may be required for site work, other than demolition, and for reconstruction. Contact Pima County Development Services, Building Codes, at 740-6490 for permit information.

Have work inspected. If excavation work is being performed (e.g., sewers or basement walls) make sure a Pima County Building Inspector examines the work before it is hidden from view to avoid problems in the future.

Make final payments when the work is completed. Do not sign completion papers or make the final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction. A reputable contractor will not threaten you or pressure you to si...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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