BBB Advice on Hiring Contractors Following the Tornados

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Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges citizens to use caution as they hire contractors to repair damages to their homes and businesses following the recent tornados and storm damage sustained in the region. While seeking a contractor in the wake of storm damage is an urgent affair, BBB advises people to take the time to make sure a contractor is reputable and qualified to perform the work PRIOR to hiring them to help protect from unsatisfactory work and rip-offs.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges citizens to use caution as they hire contractors to repair damages to their homes and businesses following the recent tornados and storm damage sustained in the region. While seeking a contractor in the wake of storm damage is an urgent affair, BBB advises people to take the time to make sure a contractor is reputable and qualified to perform the work PRIOR to hiring them to help protect from unsatisfactory work and rip-offs.

BBB offers the following advice when hiring a contractor:

Beware of “storm chasers.” If the contractor is not from your community, they may not be properly licensed or insured to the State of Michigan’s requirements. The contractor may be hard to locate in the future if there is warranty work required.

Beware of price gouging. Some unethical businesses may be marking up their products or services by as much as 500 percent.

Check with your own insurance provider FIRST. Before hiring a contractor, see what exactly is covered by your insurance provider and whether specific paperwork must be filled out to file a claim. Your insurance provider will give you tips on how to properly proceed.

Get recommendations. Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, insurance agents or claims adjusters. Ask potential contractors for references. Don’t forget to check BBB’s website, http://www.easternmichiganbbb.org, for additional information on area contractors.

Get a written estimate. Make sure the estimate includes labor and material costs, project start and completion dates and how cost overruns will be paid. Compare services and prices before making a final selection.

Research proof of current contractor licensing and registration PRIOR to hiring. Don’t just go with a verbal, “Yes, we have that” or a photocopy of their license. To verify, contact the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs at https://www2.dleg.state.mi.us/colaLicVerify/ and/or http://www7.dleg.state.mi.us/bcclicense/

Verify the contractor’s general liability insurance and workers' compensation coverage. If the contractor is not insured, your home or business may be liable for accidents that occur on the property. The above regulatory agencies give guidelines on how to verify this.

Insist on a written contract. A contract should clearly state all tasks to be performed, all costs and the payment schedule. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces. Make sure the contract states who will apply for the necessary permits or licenses. Make certain that the business owner or sales person signs the contract too. Keep a copy for your files.

Get any guarantees in writing. Any guarantees made by the contractor should be written into the contract. The guarantee should clearly state what is guaranteed, who is responsible for fulfilling the guarantee and how long the guarantee is valid.

Do not sign completion papers or make the final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction. A reputable contractor will not threaten or pressure you to sign and make final payment if the job is not finished properly.

Do NOT deal with any contractor who asks you to pay for the entire job upfront. A deposit of one-third of the total price is standard protocol. Pay only by check or credit card - and pay the final amount only after the work is completed to your satisfaction. Do not pay with cash as it is hard to verify payments.

Understand upfront what it takes to cancel the contract. Be sure to follow the procedures for cancellation that are set out in the contract. Send the notification by registered mail with a return receipt to be signed by the contractor.

Got a complaint that you need help with? Let your BBB help. Complaints may be filed with the BBB at: http://www.bbb.org.

About Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan is a non-profit organization with the purpose of assisting in the protection of consumers and businesses from fraud and unethical business practices in the local marketplace. In addition to its recognized dispute resolution services, BBB maintains reliability reports on the customer service history of more than 80,000 local businesses and provides consumer education materials on numerous topics. BBB provides its services free to the public and its service territory stretches across Eastern Michigan from Jackson/Ann Arbor through Metropolitan Detroit, Lansing, Flint, upward to Alpena, and covers the entire Upper Peninsula of the state.

Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan
26777 Central Park Blvd., Suite 100                
Southfield, MI 48076    
(248) 223-9400            
http://www.easternmichiganbbb.org

CONTACT: Melanie Duquesnel, President & CEO 248-799-0316 or mduquesnel@easternmichiganbbb.org

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