FRANKFORT, Ky. -- "Be very cautious when hiring contractors to repair storm-damaged property," say federal and Commonwealth officials to Jefferson County survivors of the Aug.4 severe storms and flooding.
Kentucky Division of Emergency Management Director Brig. Gen. John W. Heltzel cautions disaster assistance applicants to take the time to make sure a contractor is reputable and qualified to perform the work. "Do this before beginning the work to protect yourself from unsatisfactory work and to save yourself time and money," he said.
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 area contractors.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Federal Coordinating Officer, Michael J. Lapinski, stated, "FEMA does not recommend nor endorse contractors. If contractors claim they are authorized by FEMA to do repair work, do not believe it."
Things to consider when hiring a contractor:
- Get a written estimate. Compare services and prices before making a final selection;
- 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;
- 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 payment 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 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 with the Commonwealth Attorney General's office. The toll-free Consumer Protection Hotline number is 1-888-432-9257.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.