Hurricane Damage? Here are Five Tips for Hiring Skilled Contractors
Sept. 11, 2017 at midnight
When your home has been damaged by a hurricane, there’s a natural desire to get the necessary repairs done as quickly as possible and move on. However, it's vital to step back and take the necessary steps to ensure you don’t fall victim again: After any disaster, waves of 'storm chasers' – fraudulent companies and poor contractors who prey on those impacted – flock to affected areas. These fraudsters move fast. In the days immediately following Hurricane Harvey, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office already received more than 550 fraud complaints.
Here are some questions you can ask to ensure that the home contractor you choose is capable of completing your repairs and can be called out if a problem develops.
1. Do they have a business address? There are lots of small contractors who quite literally hang a sign on their trucks and drive door to door looking for work. Unfortunately, these contractors may not be there to stand behind their work if there is a problem in the future. Check for a brick and mortar office and a solid online presence beyond a social media page.
2. Are they licensed? Although Texas does not require general contractors to be licensed at the state level, many local municipalities have their own licensing, bonding and continuing education requirements. Licensing ensures that the contractors know local and state guidelines and regulations. Check with your local authorities to learn what’s required in your town, and follow their rules for your own safety. To check whether a specialty contractor – HVAC or fire sprinkler system installers, plumbers, electricians and well drilling/pump installation specialists – is licensed, you can visit the Contractors License Reference Site.
3. Are they insured? Using a contractor that is not insured puts you and your home at risk. If an unlicensed contractor causes damage to your home or a neighboring residence – or one of their subcontractors gets injured on your job site – you could be held legally and financially responsible.
4. Are they capable? Always check professional references to make certain that you are dealing with a legitimate company.
- Start with the Texas Better Business Bureau, which has a directory of local Better Business Bureaus on their site. Check contractor ratings and read reviews as well as any complaints.
- While you’ll also want to check reviews on social media and home improvement sites, be aware that it’s often difficult to tell whether the person giving a review on an unverified site is actually a former client, a company owner or employee, or even a competitor due to the anonymity of the internet.
- Don’t forget to ask for and check references from previous clients. Ask not only about the results but how the contractor was to work with throughout the project’s duration.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Finally, ascertain that they’ve handled projects of your scope and size before. While everyone has to start somewhere, you don’t necessarily want a contractor learning on your project.
5. Are they local? There are lots of great reasons to work with a local company, starting with the fact that they already know the intricacies of any local codes and requirements. Particularly in the aftermath of a disaster, working with a local contractor strengthens the area economy, which is critical to the area’s ability to bounce back as soon as possible.
With just a little research, you can ensure that you’re not victimized again in the aftermath of a disaster.