your house has been damaged by a natural disaster - snow/ice, fire, flood or
earthquake - a reputable contractor can help you get your home repaired.
Unfortunately, disasters sometimes bring out home repair rip-off artists, who overcharge,
perform shoddy work and often leave without finishing the job. What can you do to find a
quality contractor? The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Emergency Management
Agency offer the following tips:
- Be wary of builders or contractors who go
door-to-door selling their services, especially those who are not known in your community
or offer reduced prices because they've just completed work nearby and claim they
have materials left over.
- Deal only with licensed and insured
contractors. Investigate the track record of any roofer, builder or contractor you're
thinking of hiring. Get a list of recent satisfied customers from any prospective
- Ask friends, relatives, neighbors,
co-workers, insurance agents or claims adjusters for recommendations. Also check with your
Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been lodged against any contractor
- Don't let anyone rush you into signing
a contract. Get written estimates from at least three firms. Ask contractors if
there's a charge for an estimate before allowing them in your home. Ask for
explanations of price variations. Don't automatically choose the lowest bidder. Get a
copy of the final, signed contract.
- Beware of contractors who ask you to pay
for the entire job up-front. Never give a deposit until you've done your homework.
When you make a down payment, it should not be more than one-third of the total price. Pay
only by check or credit card - and pay the final amount only after the work is
completed to your satisfaction. Don't pay cash.
- Be skeptical of contractors who encourage
you to spend a lot of money on temporary repairs. Make sure you'll have enough money
to complete permanent repairs.
- Be cautious about using your home as
security for a home improvement loan. If you fail to repay the loan as agreed, you could
lose your home.
- Have a knowledgeable friend, relative or
your attorney review a contract before you sign. If you get a loan to pay for the work,
consider having these documents reviewed as well.
If you suspect a repair rip-off, call the consumer
division of your state Attorney General. If you suspect fraud, waste, or abuse involving
Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance programs, you can make a
confidential report to FEMA's Inspector
General's Office, Washington D.C.
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