Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges citizens to use caution as they hire contractors to repair damages to their homes and businesses following recent flooding in the region. While seeking a contractor in the wake of damaging flooding is an urgent affair, BBB urges people to take the time to make sure a contractor is reputable and qualified to perform the work PRIOR to hiring them to help protect from unsatisfactory work and rip-offs.
Play the video as Patrick Bennet from the BBB of Eastern Michigan tells Fox 2's Murray Feldman about a few things to be mindful of following an event that causes water damage to your home.
BBB offers the following advice when hiring a contractor:
-Beware of “fly-by-night” contractors or “storm chasers” who swarm the area after a storm. They may not be properly licensed or insured and may be hard to locate in the future.
-Beware of price gouging. Some unethical businesses may be marking up their products or services by as much as 500 percent.
-Make certain that you check with your own insurance provider FIRST before hiring a contractor to do repairs from flood damage to see what exactly is covered and what is not, whether there is specific paperwork you must fill out to file a claim, etc. Your insurance provider will give you tips on how to properly proceed.
-Get recommendations from friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, insurance agents or claims adjusters. Also ask contractors for names of previous customers and check with Better Business Bureau website, www.easternmichiganbbb.org , for information on area contractors.
-Get a written estimate. Make sure the estimate includes labor and material costs, as well as, project start and completion dates. Compare services and prices before making a final selection.
-Research proof of current and up-to-date contractor licensing and registration with state regulators PRIOR to hiring. Don’t just go with a verbal, “Yes, we have those things.” Contact the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs https://www2.dleg.state.mi.us/colaLicVerify/ and/or http://www7.dleg.state.mi.us/bcclicense/
-Make sure the contractor carries general liability insurance and workers' compensation. If the contractor is not insured, your home or business may be liable for accidents that occur on the property. The above regulatory agencies give guidelines on how to verify this.
-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.
-Resist dealing with any contractor who asks you to pay for the entire job up-front. A deposit of one-third of the total price is standard procedure. 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.
-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 BBB at: www.bbb.org as well as with the state regulators mentioned above. A dual complaint can be filed with your state Attorney General's office, as well.