Cridersville, OH -- State, county and federal disaster recovery officials advise Ohio residents who have flood-related damage to be careful when hiring unknown contractors to clean up and repair their homes and businesses.
"Scam artists are often ready to seize the opportunity to capitalize on the misfortune of others," said Richard Roman, deputy state coordinating officer.
"Don't rush into any decision when it comes to rebuilding and fixing damaged homes. Checking references ahead of time could save you from dealing with more frustration down the road," said Attorney General Jim Petro.
Disaster recovery officials advise residents to be especially alert for door-to-door solicitors who hand out homemade flyers and ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office offers the following suggestions on how to be a wise consumer:
- Check to see if a company has any complaints filed against them by calling Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro's Consumer Protection Section at toll-free 1-800-282-0515.
- Get a written estimate. Be sure to obtain a written estimate for the job and read the fine print. Compare the services and prices of several reputable contractors before making a final decision. Hire local contractors, if possible. Some contractors charge a fee for an estimate, which is often applied to the price of subsequent repairs they make.
- 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 or to the house/building.
- 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. Keep a copy of the signed contract.
- 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.
- Have work inspected. If excavation work is being performed (e.g., sewers or basement walls) make sure a qualified observer inspects the work before it is hidden from view to avoid similar 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 sign if the job is not finished properly.
- Pay by check. Avoid on-the-spot cash payments. The safest route is to write a check to the contracting company. A reasonable down payment is 30 percent of the total cost of the project. Federal law gives consumers a three-day "cooling off" period for unsolicited door-to door sales of more than $25.
- Canceling a contract....