A lot of people need to hire someone to repair their flood-damaged homes, and there are a lot of reputable businesses and contractors out there.
But not everyone who shows up with a hammer in his hand is up to the job, or is even legitimate.
The Better Business Bureau of South Central Louisiana and the Louisiana Attorney General's Office offers the following advice to avoid getting scammed and to reduce the chances of getting inferior repair work:
- Check them out. The BBB (bbb.org/baton-rouge) has business reviews on home contractors. You should also check with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, (225) 765-2301, which licenses contractors.
- Take pictures of home damage before repair work begins and as it progresses. Take pictures of your contractors, their employees and their vehicle license plates. Save the photos in a secure location.
- Get at least three estimates. Get quotes in writing. Don’t accept estimates over the phone, and be wary of very low estimates. They could set up a “bait-and-switch” tactic. Make sure each contractor bids on exactly the same work.
- Get a written contract. Make sure it specifies the price, the work to be done and who will do it, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame. Keep a signed, legible copy of the contract in a safe place.
- Don’t pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront. A reputable contractor will not require a down payment over 10 to 25 percent of the total. Insist that payments be made to the company, not to an individual.
- Verify the contractor's address. Ask for references of previous customers, inspecting work done for them when possible.
- Require the contractor to show proof of insurance, and call that insurer to confirm the coverage.
- To verify whether a contractor is licensed or registered to do construction work in Louisiana, you can download the free "La Contractor" mobile app or use the contractor search function at the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at lacontractor.org or call (800) 256-1392.
- Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.
- Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number and Louisiana license plate.
- Know your rights and responsibilities. Check with your city officials to see what permits contractors need to work on your property. Check with your insurance carrier to make sure your liability insurance covers falls or injuries to contractors.
- Pay by credit card, if possible. This may provide you with additional protection if there’s a problem.
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