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Selecting a Contractor

Finding a good contractor to handle difficult repair jobs or to rebuild is essential. Here are some tips to help.

Sleuthing

If you have been satisfied with work done before by a local licensed contractor, use that firm. If you haven’t used a contractor before, or if you were unhappy with a previous experience, you may have to do some investigating to increase your chances of getting a good one. ;

  • Ask the contractor for proof of insurance. This should include a completion bond, disability and worker’s compensation insurance. Improperly insured contractors may expose you to liability for accidents occurring on your property.
  • Check on the firm’s reputation. Ask the local Better Business Bureau, home builders association or building trades council. They can tell you if the firm has had unanswered complaints filed against it.
  • Ask for references. Reputable contractors are willing to provide names of their previous customers. Contact some of them and ask how satisfied they were with the job and if they would hire that contractor again.

Get It in Writing

No matter how well you know the contractor or how much you trust him/her, get everything related to the job in writing.

  • Get a written estimate. It should include everything you expect the contractor to do. Some contractors charge a fee for an estimate.
  • Obtain a contract. The contract should be complete and clearly state all the work, costs, and payment schedule.

Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces. It may be worthwhile to have your attorney look it over if a lot of money is involved.

  • Ask for guarantees. Any guarantees from the contractor should be written into the contract. It should include what is guaranteed, who is responsible for the guarantee *(dealer, contractor, manufacturer) and the length of time for which the guarantee is valid.
  • Get a final contract. A signed contract is binding on both you and the contractor. Don’t sign completion papers or make the final payment until the work is finished to your satisfaction and approved by your local building inspector.

Beware of Disreputable Business Activities

Areas recovering from floods are often prime targets for less-than-honest business activities. Here are some points to help safeguard against such practices:

♦ Beware of “special deals” offered after a disaster by contractors you don’t know.

♦ Beware of unknown contractors wanting to use your house as a “model home.”

♦ Do not sign any contract under pressure by a salesperson. Federal law requires a three day cooling-off period for unsolicited door-to-door sales of more than $25. If you choose to cancel such a contract within three business days of signing it, send your cancellation by registered mail.

♦ Beware if you are asked to pay cash on the spot instead of a check made out to the contracting company. A reasonable down payment is up to 30% of the total project cost.

♦ Your contractor should call you or a qualified observer to inspect hidden work (e.g., sewers or basement wall) before it is covered over. Most building departments must inspect electrical and plumbing lines before the walls are covered with wallboard or paneling

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