Tips and Warnings for Hiring Contractors after a Natural Disaster

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With the massive devastation from a rash of recent tornadoes it is imperative for victims to be aware of pitfalls of becoming victims for a second time during the rebuilding process. With so much loss of life and property it is hard to imagine how it could get worse but following every natural disaster there are horror stories of victims becoming prey for unethical and unqualified opportunists disguised as contractors. Taking the time to carefully go through a selection process of contractors will save substantial money, time, and heartache.

With the massive devastation from a rash of recent tornadoes, storm victims should be wary of becoming victims for a second time. "With so much loss of life and property it is hard to imagine how it could get worse but following every natural disaster there are horror stories of victims becoming prey of unethical and unqualified opportunists disguised as contractors," said David Feemster, executive director of ARSM-HACCA, an Alabama-based trade association of specialty contractors. Mr. Feemster stated that, "Taking the time to carefully go through a selection process of contractors will save substantial money, time, and heartache."

Following a natural disaster many contractors come from out of state, to offer their services. "Often times these contractors are nothing more than scam artists looking to make a quick buck and skip out without performing the work. Other times they are opportunists who do not have the experience or qualifications to perform the type of work they’re hired to do. In either case, the victim is left with an even more costly, time-consuming, and mentally-draining recovery process" said Feemster.

Victims of natural disasters are in a very vulnerable state. They are typically displaced, dealing with injuries, loss of loved ones, loss of irreplaceable personal belongings, and many other emotional issues. Anyone that has experienced having a home built, remodeled, or dealt with any type of construction project knows there are many challenges in the best of conditions. Imagine dealing with it in the while trying to rebuild your whole life and with limited or no experience in hiring contactors.

The Alabama Roofing, Sheet Metal, Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ARSM-HACCA) provided the following suggestions and warnings that will help storm victims find ethical and honest contractors to help them rebuild their homes, businesses, and lives:

Be extremely cautious when hiring someone who is not from the local area.

Be wary of any contractor that can’t provide references in your area and that does not have a fixed business address in the area.

Various types of work call for a specialized kind of work. Make sure that your contractor is knowledgeable about the specific nature of your recovery issue.

Make sure that your contractor is properly licensed, bonded, and insured, including having workers’ compensation insurance. Contact your insurance specialist if you have questions regarding coverage.

Ask contractors if they are members of local/state trade associations and contact the association(s) to verify membership. Reputable contractors are usually involved with industry trade associations. The Better Business Bureau is a good source to check during the selection process.

Never pay a contractor in cash, be wary of a contractor that asks you to write a check directly to him, and get everything in writing and signed by both parties.

Be reluctant of scare tactics that rush you into a decision before having time to research the contractor. If a situation does not feel right it is best to trust your instincts and proceed with caution.

If satisfied with the contractor, refer his business to others who have suffered from the natural disaster.

Don’t be in too much of a hurry with your recovery efforts that you don’t follow through with the details of making sure you are using an ethical and professional contractor. ARSM-HACCA is a 501(C)(6) trade association that has represented Alabama-based specialty contractors on a state-wide basis since 1955.

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David Feemster
ARSM-HACCA
(205) 981-0086
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