After the damages caused by Hurricane Irma, many of us find ourselves wrestling with insurance companies and their adjusters.
This is necessary to establish a value for needed repairs, followed by the challenges of hiring contractors to repair our homes and get our lives back to normal.
Most of us are faced with decisions, regulations, and costs we have never dealt with before. How do you know what’s right, what’s required, who is the safest, most timely and cost-effective company to hire?
Nothing’s foolproof; there are risks in all business transactions. These projects are further complicated by the demand for a limited supply of contractors in an already heated market. Throw in the unknown of repairing versus replacing, and it can be a daunting and complicated task.
First, have someone verify what can be saved versus what needs to be replaced, and establish just how far back you have to go to start the rebuilding process properly. It is important you hire a contractor you have complete trust and confidence in. So just how do you do that?
Following a few simple rules will go a long way in protecting yourself.
Step 1: Always and only hire licensed contractors. Hire contractors once you have verified that their license is in good standing and active. The State of Florida makes this somewhat easy. Go to the website MyFloridaLicense.com and search to verify the contractor is who they say they are. Search a little deeper, and you can see how long they have had a license and whether there are any complaints against their license.
Step 2: Contractors live by referrals both good and bad. Ask your friends who they have used and how the project went. Chances are better, if a project went well for them, it will likely go well for you. I caution you that bad habits repeat themselves as well, and if your friend had a bad experience stay away, bad contractors don’t often get better with practice.
Step 3: Check with the local Building Industry Associations. Such organizations typically maintain a database of all its members by trade. Association members most often have roots in the community and must maintain a license in good standing. Bad contractors usually don’t hang out or last in an association of reputable business people.
Step 4: Require that you be named as additionally insured and provided with proof of insurance. Florida Contracting Law allows some contractors to exempt themselves from workman’s comp. Seek the advice of an attorney, but understand this will increase the risk for you and provides very limited protection if anyone gets hurt.
Step 5: Always require that the contractor obtain all necessary building permits and performs all required inspections. City inspectors will assure that the work being conducted meets at least the minimum standards of the current building codes. Be very leery of contractors who suggest that a permit is not required.
Step 6: Obtain a “Waiver of Lien Rights” from all suppliers and contractors who serve you with Notice of Intent to lien before providing final payment. Failure to obtain these waivers could and has resulted in homeowners having to pay twice for work performed.
Following these steps will go a long way in the successful completion of your rebuilding project. Choose wisely, do your research, and seek advice from professionals. The process of rebuilding will not be quick and often will have pitfalls. However, done correctly, you should end up with an improved home.
Thank you and good luck,
Brian Rist, President of Storm Smart