Repairing Your Home after Disaster Damage
Repairing your home after a fire, flood, storm, snow or ice damage, a tornado or earthquake can prove a daunting task. The first step is to call in professional loss assessors to help you assess the damage and make sure you receive the full amount you should from your insurance company. The next step is to contact contractors to help restore your home. If more than a few homes have been damaged, the demand for quality contractors exceeds the number available.
Patience will help you save money and insure quality work. Licensed home repair companies could be booked for several months. Hiring a contractor to make repairs on a part-time basis will extend the time it takes to complete the job and hiring outside your local area means the contractor will be difficult to contact for necessary follow-up. If you feel there is a hurry to get the job done, you can end up with an inexperienced contractor seizing the opportunity to make some fast money.
Your family's safety should be your first priority. Report downed power lines to your local utility company for immediate assistance. Don't ever attempt to move them yourself. Next, contact your insurance company; they may require an adjuster's assessment before you can have any work done. They also recommend that you take pictures and videos of your belongings in case of a disaster. Also document your home after the damage has occurred. Holes in your roof should be covered by a tarp if you can safely walk on it. This will prevent any additional damage.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that you consider the following when repairs are needed after a home disaster:
- Use only licensed and insured contractors with a positive track record. Contact some recent customers to verify their satisfaction.
- Choose workers recommended by people you know. Insurance agents or claims adjusters will have a list of companies approved by the BBB and Home Builders' Association.
- Take time to read and understand the contract before signing. Be sure to get written estimates that include anything promised orally by the contractor. Most companies provide an estimate for free but not all do. Find out before allowing any contractor into your home.
Don't automatically go with the lowest bid. Let the contractor explain why there is a variation in his price. He may be using better quality products or construction processes. A final, signed copy of the contract should be in your hands before the job begins.
- Have an attorney or a knowledgeable relative or friend review the contract before you sign it. If you must get a loan to pay for repairs, be cautious about using your home as security. If you can't make payments as agreed you could lose your property.
- Do not deal with anyone requiring payment for the entire job up-front. A one-third payment before work starts is considered standard. Payment should be by credit card or check so that you have a record. You should make a careful home inspection and be completely satisfied that the contract has been fulfilled before you make the final payment.
- If temporary repairs are a necessity, make certain that enough insurance money remains to cover the permanent repairs.
The Federal Trade Commission tries to prevent fraud, deception and unfair business practices. They can provide information to help consumers avoid these. The FTC are available to help you in the event you have a complaint and can be contacted at http://www.ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Should you suspect you have been ripped-off by shoddy repairs, call the consumer division of you state's Attorney General. If FEMA funds were used and fraud, waste, or abuse was involved the report should be made to FEMA's Inspector General's Office.