— Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts if temporary repairs are necessary.
— For major repairs, take time to get three or four estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references and verify licensing with local agencies.
— Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your home. An unethical contractor may create damage to get the work.
— Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name address, license number, if applicable, and phone number is included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, and don’t sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at the time of signature.
— Clearly written proposals that are detailed and broken down into separate line items are a good sign the contractor is being thorough and has prepared an accurate estimate.
— If one estimate seems much lower than others and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors’ below-cost bids seem attractive, but often are uninsured and require substantial cancellation fees or liquidation damages if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after insurance approval.
— Never pay for work in full in advance. A good guideline is to pay by the rule of thirds: pay one-third deposit, one-third when the job is 50 percent complete, and one-third once the job is completed.
— Hire locally whenever possible. If the company is not from the area, chances are they are less likely to come back and make a repair should you find something they missed.
— Victims of severe storm damage should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start with companies you can trust by going to www.bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline at 903-581-8373.