LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- State and federal officials advise storm victims to use care when hiring contractors to repair damaged property.
"Take your time hiring a contractor," said State Coordinating Officer Richard Griffin of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. "When you take the time to make sure your contractor is reputable, licensed and qualified before the work begins, you'll protect yourself from unsatisfactory work. You'll likely save money, too."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also advises that FEMA does not recommend or endorse any contractors. "If contractors claim they're authorized by FEMA to do repair work, don't believe it," said Federal Coordinating Officer Ken Riley.
Tips for hiring contractors include:
- Get a written estimate. Compare services and prices before making a final decision.
- Check references. Ask contractors for names of previous customers. Call several former customers who had similar work done to make sure they were satisfied with the job. Check the Better Business Bureau's Web site, www.bbb.org for information on contractors in your area.
- 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. A list of licensed contractors is available in the business section on the State of Arkansas' Web site, www.arkansas.gov/clb/search.html.
- Insist on a written contract. A contract should clearly state all tasks to be performed, all costs and the payment schedule. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces. Make sure the contract states who will apply for the necessary permits or licenses. Keep a copy for your files.
- 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.
- Make final payments only 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 or pressure you to sign if the job is not finished properly.
- Pay by check. Don't pay cash. 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, to be paid upon initial delivery of materials.
- Canceling a contract. This 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.
- Report problems with a contractor or fraud to the Public Protection Department of the Attorney General's Office, 501-682-2341 or 1-800-482-8982.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terrorism.