Tips For Finding Disaster-Repair Contractors

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Release date: 
August 9, 2006
Release Number: 

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Federal and State disaster recovery officials today urged anyone who may receive a travel trailer as an alternate housing resource to find a contractor as soon as possible to begin repairs to their flood damaged home.

“The travel trailer is not designed to be habitable during a New York winter,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Marianne C. Jackson of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “Initiating repairs to your home is a priority.”

The website of the New York State Consumer Protection Board ( offers the following tips for hiring a contractor:

  • Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for contractor referrals.
  • Contact local trade organizations, such as the Builder”s Association or Remodelor’s Council for the names of members in your area.
  • Check out the contractor with your local or state consumer protection officials.
  • Ask the contractor for customer references who have projects similar to yours.
  • Ask for a copy of the contractor's current insurance certificates and licenses, if required.
  • Get written estimates from several firms. Make sure bids are based on identical project specifications.
  • Get all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing.
  • Agree on start and completion dates, and have them written into the contract.

The Consumer Protection Board’s web site also offers these items regarding hiring a home-improvement contractor:

  • Home Improvements Without Headaches
  • Report a Scamming Contractor

Although most service providers in the building industry are honest, there have been instances in disaster situations of contractors taking advantage of the misfortunes of others,” Jackson said. “That’s why FEMA, like other state and federal agencies, provides information regarding things to watch out for when hiring and working with a contractor.” (See “Information for Individuals,” “Recover and Rebuild,” and “Cleaning, Repairing and Rebuilding Information.”)

“Fortunately, we have no reports of problems with contractors to date,” said State Coordinating Officer John R. Gibb, Director of the New York State Emergency Management Office. “People affected by the recent floods will be needing the services of various contractors – architectural, engineering, electrical, plumbing, and general. No matter what kind of contractor they’re dealing with, they should be especially alert for phone or door-to-door solicitors who hand out flyers and promise to speed up the insurance or building permit process, and for those who ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.”

“A consumer should never pay the full amount up front,” Gibb added.

"In the past, some contractors have claimed to be 'FEMA certified,'” Jackson said. “The fact is, FEMA neither certifies nor endorses any contractor.”

Any problems with a contractor or contractor fraud should be reported to the New York Consumer Protection Board. The Board accepts consumer complaints and questions over the Internet as well as by fax or mail:

New York State Consumer Protection Board
Consumer Assistance Unit
5 Empire State Plaza - Suite 2101
Albany, New York 12223-1556
Phone: 1-800-697-1220
Fax: (518) 486-3936

FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the Na...

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