FRANKFORT, KY -- Kentuckians affected by the ice storm are urged by commonwealth and federal recovery officials to use caution when hiring a contractor to move debris and for home or business repairs.
"Unfortunately in disaster situations, scam artists often attempt to take advantage of other people's misfortune," said Brig. Gen. John W. Heltzel, director of Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. "Always check a contractor's credentials and be alert for phone or door-to-door solicitors promising to speed up the insurance or permitting process. People should never hire a contractor who insists on a large cash deposit or payment in full before the work is performed."
Kentucky Division of Emergency Management (KYEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) remind residents that information about contractors, such as certified or professional licensing, is available through local and state licensing boards. Contractor information also may be obtained through local trade or professional organizations and area Better Business Bureaus.
If you feel you cannot afford a contractor, ask your local county official what assistance may be available through local charities, civic or faith-based organizations.
"FEMA does not endorse local contractors," said Kim R. Kadesch, federal coordinating officer in charge of the Kentucky operation for FEMA. "If you are approached by anyone who says they are with our agency, ask for identification because FEMA representatives always wear photo identification."
Report unscrupulous activities, scams or fraud to local law enforcement and contact the Kentucky Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division online at www.ag.ky.gov or by telephone at 502-696-5389.
Tips for hiring a contractor include:
- Use local contractors. If you are satisfied with previous work by a local licensed contractor, contact them first. If they are not available, ask them for recommendations. Then, meet with two or three contractors about what needs to be done.
- Ask for references. Contractors should provide names of previous customers. Contact those customers and ask if they would hire the contractors again.
- Get all estimates in writing. Ask up-front if the contractors charge estimate fees. Make sure the estimate includes the specific work that contractors are expected to perform.
- Ask for proof of insurance. Be sure the contractors are insured to do the work required. The contractors should provide proof of insurance. If they are not properly insured, you may be liable if an accident happens 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 any blank spaces. For large jobs, it also may prove worthwhile to have an attorney look at the contract before signing it.
- Ask for guarantees in writing (if separate from the contract). A guarantee should include what it covers, who is responsible for fulfilling the guarantee, such as a dealer, contractor or manufacturer, and how long the guarantee is valid.
- Get a copy of the final, signed contract. Carefully read the contract before signing it. Once signed, the contract is binding on you and the contractor.
- Do not pay before the job is finished. Make sure the work is completed to your satisfaction before signing completion papers and making a final payment. Reputable contractors will not threaten you or pressure you to sign anything if the job is not complete or you are not happy with the quality of the work.
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