HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- People in northern Alabama who are planning to repair and rebuild after the severe storms and tornadoes of late April will likely need contractors.
When it comes to choosing professional construction help, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are urging citizens to be smart consumers – aware that there are some scam artists who take advantage of dazed storm survivors.
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, talk to several of them 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 on 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, get written estimates and avoid large cash payments up front. Check with your area Better Business Bureau.
If you believe you've been a victim of fraud, contact the Alabama Attorney General's Office of Consumer Affairs at 334-242-7334 or in Alabama 1-800-392-5658.
The Alabama Emergency Agency is Alabama's coordinating agency for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Learn more at www.ema.alabama.gov and follow the agency on Twitter (@AlabamaEMA).
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.