McALLEN, Texas -- The state attorney general's office is ready to assist anyone who may be a victim of contractor fraud. Texas residents eager to move their recovery along following Hurricane Dolly will likely need one or more contractors to help them repair disaster damages or rebuild their homes and businesses.
Those who experience difficulties with a contactor can call the Texas Attorney General's Office Complaint Hotline at 1-800-621-0508.
State and federal disaster recovery officials are reminding citizens to be smart consumers when it comes to choosing professional help.
To help the process go smoothly, recovery officials are offering the following suggestions:
- Use local contractors first. If you were satisfied with past work done by local licensed contractors, try them first. If they cannot help you, ask for recommendations. If you must hire a contractor you don't know, consult several companies before signing anything.
- Ask for references. Contractors should be willing to provide names of previous customers. Contact some of those customers and ask if they would hire the contractor again.
- Ask for a written estimate. Make sure it includes everything you expect the contractor to do. Also, find out up-front if the contractor will charge a fee for that estimate.
- Ask for proof of insurance. Be sure the contractor has disability and workers' compensation insurance. If not, you may be liable for accidents on your property.
- Get a written contract. The contract should clearly state all work, costs and the payment schedule. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces. It may also be worthwhile to have an attorney look at the contract before signing it.
- Ask for guarantees in writing (if separate from the contract). If the contractor provides guarantees, he/she should clearly state what is covered by that guarantee, who is responsible for fulfilling the guarantee (dealer, contractor or manufacturer), and how long the guarantee is valid.
- Get a copy of the final, signed contract. Read it over carefully before signing. Once signed, the contract is binding for both you and the contractor.
- Do not sign off before the job is finished. Make sure the work is done to your satisfaction before signing completion papers or making a final payment. A reputable contractor will not threaten you or pressure you to sign if the job is not finished properly.
- Check references. Obtain written estimates and never pay cash up front.
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 terror.