Better Business Bureau
A series of major winter storms in the beginning of 2017 have caused flooding, evacuations, road closures and mudslides throughout Northern and Central California and Nevada. This flooding has affected hundreds of homes.
More rain may be coming, but after the waters recede, residents will be looking to repair. BBB offers the following six tips when recovering from a flood:
• Find a business you can trust. In 2015, BBB received hundreds of complaints about remodel and repair contractors nationwide. The top reason for complaints? Issues with contracts, followed closely by problems with repairs. Start your search for a trustworthy business at bbb.org. BBB Business Profiles include company information, customer reviews and complaint history. Or, visit the BBB Accredited Business Directory for a list of accredited contractors in your area. It’s also a good idea to ask for recommendations from family and friends.
• Get at least three estimates. Make sure to get three written estimates before signing any contracts. Make sure the estimates are for identical plans and scope of work. It’s not always best to accept the lowest bid, and be wary if one estimate is significantly lower than the others.
• Get a written contract and don’t pay in advance. Make sure the contract specifies the price, the work to be done and who will do it, a breakdown of material and labor costs, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, a time frame and a copy of their current certificate of insurance. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. Be sure their name, address, license number and phone number is included in contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety. Don’t sign a blank contract, and make sure to receive a copy of the signed contract at time of signature. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor. Don’t feel pressured to pay with cash or pay in advance.
• Resist high-pressure sales and be careful of door-to-door contractors. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be proactive in selecting a contractor and not reactive to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty repair decision. If someone does show up at your door, ask for identification. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates from your state.
• Make sure they’re licensed and insured. In California, any contractor working on a project that is valued at $500 or more for labor and materials must hold a license from the California State License Board (CSLB). CSLB licenses contractors in 43 different classifications, so verify that the contractor holds a license for the work you are having done. This is especially important if the company claims they are able to remove mold and mildew. You can check the status of a license on CSLB’s website (cslb.ca.gov). The CSLB also recommends that “when the contractor comes to your house… ask to see his/her pocket license, along with a picture I.D. Make sure the person you’re dealing with is the same person on the license”. It’s also important to verify that they’re insured – ask to see a copy of their Certificate of Insurance, or ask for the name of the insurance carrier and agency to verify independently.
• Know how to deal with your insurance. Flood insurance is not necessarily part of your home insurance. If you do have flood insurance, call your insurance agent immediately to file a claim. Ask for specific procedures or paperwork needed. If possible, take photos of the damage.
If you do have an issue with a contractor, you can file a complaint with your BBB at bbb.org. If you encounter a storm chaser scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.