Natural Disasters Bring Out the Best & Worst: Practice Safe Contracting Post-Harvey & Irma

Natural Disasters Bring Out the Best & Worst: Practice Safe Contracting Post-Harvey & Irma

At the tail end of summer 2017, two natural disasters struck the southern United States, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Houston, Texas and its surrounding areas plus most of Florida and the Gulf Coast were hit hard by the winds and massive flooding caused by the Category 3 and 5 hurricanes. In the aftermath of the storm, residents are still assessing all damage to homes and businesses, some of which won’t be unearthed for months.

Some experts estimate that the damage from both Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could total upwards of $100 billion dollars each. As residents begin to rebuild, the last thing on their minds should be unscrupulous contractors, but that’s exactly what must be taken into consideration right now. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued a warning for residents to take heed of “bad actors…taking advantage of victims and their circumstances.” There’s also some sound advice on Contractors Edge website to avoid scammers.

Ed Longstrom from ContractorsEdge has personal experience with the aftermath of natural disasters and wants to forewarn others, “My family and I have been through 2 massive 100-year floods. These disasters bring out the best and unfortunately the worst in people. There are going to be unscrupulous people claiming to be contractors and you need to protect yourself.”

That’s why ContractorsEdge wants to help Texans and Floridians avoid home repair scams by offering advice on how to take precautions before contracting with any home repair personnel. Consider the 5-steps below before engaging with a contractor:

  • Avoid contractors who show up at your doorstep. Rather, obtain recommendations from friends, family, and neighbors, and rely online review sites plus always check references.
  • Regarding payment, the preference is to put funds into an escrow account, like to control the release of payment to the contractor based on when work is completed. Never pay cash or pay in full up-front; using a credit card for payment also offers additional protection.
  • Ensure that the contractor is licensed and insured. Texans can visit the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation’s website to verify licensure and Floridians can visit the Department of Business & Professional Regulation’s website.
  • Obtain multiple bids for each project. Assess price as well as the details outlined in the job so you can compare “apples to apples.” The lowest price isn’t always the best option, depending on the scope of the job and the details outlined in the estimate.
  • Obtain a well-written contract that outlines the job specifics to keep both the homeowner and contractor on the same page regarding expectations and deliverables.

Be sure to avoid contractor fraud by following the steps above. Don’t be pressured into making a decision until you’re comfortable with your research and the terms of any contract. And remember, trust your gut when deciding – if it doesn’t feel right, walk away!