New Castle, DE - State and federal disaster recovery officials advise Delaware residents who have disaster-related damage to be careful when hiring unknown contractors to clean up and repair their homes and businesses.
"Unscrupulous contractors may seize the disaster as an opportunity to capitalize on the misfortune of others," said Mike Hall, Federal Coordinating Officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA offers the following suggestions on how to be a wise consumer:
- Use reliable, licensed contractors. Check with the Better Business Bureau of Delaware at
- Get written estimates. Compare the services and prices of at least three reputable contractors before making a final decision. Make sure the contractor you select is licensed and insured.
- Check references.
- Insist on a written contract. Most reputable contractors will enter into a written agreement outlining the rights and responsibilities of each party, the work to be done and the payment schedule. If a contractor refuses to enter into a written agreement and a problem occurs, you may have no legal remedy.
- Canceling a contract. Canceling a contract should be done within three business days of signing. Be sure to follow the procedures for cancellation that are set out in the contract. Send the notification by registered mail with a return receipt to be signed by the contractor.
- Make sure your contractor gets the proper permits and have all work inspected. If excavation work is being performed (e.g., sewers or basement walls) it is especially important to have the work inspected 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. Insist on a receipt for any payment made to the contractor. Most reputable contactors will accept payments based upon the percentage of work completed.
Consumers who have problems with a contractor or have been victims of fraud are urged to contact the Delaware Consumer Protection Division at (302) 577-8600.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.