Your business is your livelihood. If the business was damaged during a storm, you want to get it back up and running as soon as possible. While that is perfectly reasonable, you need to use common sense when it comes to making repairs. You want to hire a professional contractor who will do the job properly and for the right price.
The Reality After a Storm Goes Through
Con artists love to take advantage of desperate people. When a storm comes through a region, leaving extensive damage behind, these con artists come flooding in hours later.
They will pose as contractors, trade professionals, or handymen who are ready and willing to help property owners start making repairs. They often offer special deals for those who will pay up front. In a few cases, they will do some shoddy temporary repairs, then promise to come back later to make more permanent repairs. But, they never return, keeping the money and walking away.
How to Protect Your Business After a Storm
The easiest way to ensure you get the proper repairs is to contact a public adjuster. A public adjuster can not only file your claim and negotiate with the insurance company, but will also hire a reputable contractor. However, with a bit of diligence and some common sense, you can find a reputable contractor to help you get your business up and running, without dealing with con artists. Here are some tips to help:
- Get recommendations. Ask your family, friends, employees, neighbors, insurance agents, and claims adjusters for recommendations on contractors who might be able to help. A personal recommendation, especially from someone who has had work done by that contractor before, is a very good place to start.
- Verify licensing. Before you even get an estimate, you want to make sure you are dealing with a legitimate contractor who is serious about his business. In Texas, only specialty contractors that work on HVAC, electricity, plumbing, etc. are required to have a state license to ply their trade. However, if someone is doing business as a contractor, that person should have a business license.
- Verify insurance and bonding. A reputable contractor will carry liability as well as workers’ compensation insurance. This protects his business and his clients from damage and accidents that occur while the work is being completed. Bonding is another critical piece of the puzzle. Bonds offer protection to the property owner if a contractor walks away, leaving a job undone or not done to code.
- Check references. A good contractor who has been in business for a while is going to have past customers willing to act as a reference. Ask the contractor for at least three references. If the contractor balks or refuses, find another contractor. And follow through on checking those references. Anyone can whip out a list of random names and addresses. You want to make sure this contractor has experience, does decent work, and is a professional.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau and with online review sites. You want to get as many opinions about the contractor as possible. While you cannot verify that the contractor is technically competent with such information, you can get feedback on the contractor’s professionalism and work ethic through the Better Business Bureau.
Working with the Contractor
- Get a written estimate. Before you sign a contract, or have any work started, you need to get everything in writing. The contractor should have no issues putting any oral promises in writing and providing a basic breakdown of estimated costs (labor vs. supplies).
- Get multiple estimates. While it is very tempting to get the job started immediately, going with the first contractor who shows up can be a costly mistake. You want at least two or three bids to get an idea of what it is going to cost to get the property repaired. Compare the bids carefully. You may find the work covered by each bid is very different.
- Don’t pay more than 1/3 up front. Some contractors will try to pressure a business owner to pay everything up front. That is a red flag and you should not do business with such a contractor. The industry standard is to pay about 1/3 up front and the rest at the end of the job.
- Pay by check or credit card only. Never pay cash. Con artists love cash. It allows them to anonymously slip away with no paper trail to follow them. Certain protections come into play when you pay with a check or by credit card.
- Ask for a lien waiver from the contractor. This document says that the workers and suppliers will not go to you to ask for money once you pay the contractor.
- Do not sign a consent of owner statement. This document requires the property owner to cover the costs of materials and labor if the contractor does not.
The bottom line is just be to careful hiring a contractor to repair storm damage. Take time to find a reputable contractor who will do the job right.
Want to ensure that the job gets done right without wading through a sea of contractors? When you call Commercial Claim Pro, we do the grunt work for you. We will find the most qualified contractor and work with them to guarantee the best results. Call today at 877-877-6612.
Photo U.S. Army Corps of Engineers | Used under Creative Commons image attribution license 2.0