JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State and federal officials advise flood victims to use care when hiring contractors to repair flood-damaged property.
"Take the time to make sure your contractor is reputable, licensed and qualified before the work begins," said State Coordinating Officer Ronald Reynolds of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). "You'll protect yourself from unsatisfactory work and you will likely save money, too."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not recommend or endorse any contractors. "If contractors claim they are authorized by FEMA to do repair work, do not believe it," said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Karl.
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. Missouri does not have a general contractor's license. They are licensed and regulated at the local level. Contact your local government offices for contractor information.
- 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 it 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. Do not pay with 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.
- Consumer complaints may be filed by phone using the Missouri Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222 or online at ago.mo.gov/consumercomplaint.htm.
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.