Avoid Contractor Scams After Hurricane Harvey
When storms strike, so do scam artists. Understand how they’ll present themselves and you’ll avoid becoming a victim of both a disaster and a scam.
Homeowners who were flooded by Harvey should focus immediately on trying to remediate their homes, meaning tearing out baseboards, insulation and sheetrock and allowing the studs to dry out. Homeowners should use dehumidifiers (and a generator if no power) and apply bleach on their studs to kill any bacteria and prevent mold.
The most important thing for homeowners to remember is to be patient about when to start rebuilding. Often contractors can pressure homeowners to start remodeling work as soon as possible, but make sure the house is completely dry before starting the work. Use a moisture meter and have a mold inspection done.
- Be wary of storm chasers trying knocking on your door to pressure you to get things done fast, they’re counting on your desperation – there’s a shortage of local contractors and skilled labor to begin with in Texas, so high pressure sales tactics are a RED FLAG.
- Cash up front requests – SCAM. Be wary of contractors who offer a better deal if you sign with them quickly or pay cash up front.
- FEMA doesn’t certify or endorse any contractors – and if someone says they can get you on a FEMA priority list, that’s a SCAM. See www.SAM.gov for approved government-registered contractors.
- Texas is one of 26 states that don’t require general contractor licensing throughout the State- they don’t even have to register their business with the State – so there’s no one regulating them. But Mold & Remediation, plumbing and electric and other specialty trades DO require State licensing, see (https://www.license.state.tx.us/licenses.htm). **Licensure requirements varies between local municipalities, check your local government’s website for information.**
- If you are considering an out-of-state contractor, check the jurisdiction they are from to see if licensing is required and if they have it… if they don’t have it and they should – don’t hire them!
- Make sure the contractor has an established physical address, and liability insurance.
- Get multiple estimates – make sure they are in writing, and don’t go with the lowest bid! Materials cost what they cost… where prices get cut is the quality of labor!
- Check references (call them!) and search for reviews online*****
- Make sure you get a written and signed contract. There must be a clear scope of work with the trades listed and the order to be done, and a payment schedule – PAYMENTS MADE UPON PROGRESS OF THE WORK! Never pay large sums up front before any work has been done.
- Be wary of contractors who offer to do their work without a contract or pulling permits. Every professional homebuilder executes a contract and pulls permits.
Remember to document the before, during and after work with LOTS of photos!! You’ll need them later for insurance and FEMA, and especially if you have a problem with your contractor.