Recent historic flooding has wreaked havoc in the Carolinas, leaving many consumers without power and clean water. It caused severe property damage and left many people homeless.
Do you know how to cope after a major flood?
The Better Business Bureau cautions you to play it safe after the water levels descend. Be aware of the dangers that flooding can cause to your home or property, such as a weakened foundation or electrical shortages. Floodwater is often contaminated with chemicals or waste. Don’t risk illness.
Many consumers are anxious to start cleaning up so they can get back to their normal lives, but do take the necessary time and precautions to have your home repaired. Often there is a state or federal disaster hot line established that can also help you recover.
Avoid fly-by-night storm chasers who swoop in after a storm and then disappear after they receive payment.
The BBB and Federal Trade Commission offer the following tips for home repair after a flood or disaster:
Check out a company’s BBB business review and complaint history at www.bbb.org.
Check to see if the company you plan to hire is properly licensed for the work they’re doing.
Get at least three written bids and take the time to learn why they may be different. Make temporary emergency repairs if necessary.
Be sure to verify the company’s liability insurance to protect yourself against any damage. Check them out with your state’s department of insurance.
Ask for references from their three previous jobs and check them out before you sign a contract.
Before work begins, have a signed contract, including start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done and all warranty information. Read the fine print carefully and understand all terms before signing.
Your up-front deposit should not be more than one-third of the total job cost, and final payment should only be due when the job is completed. Pay by check or credit card to keep record of payments. Resist any high pressure to pay everything up front.
Obtain warranty information in writing on all products and installation and read the fine print carefully.
Be sure all workers are bonded to protect you against theft and damage.
Make sure the contractor pulls all appropriate permits for the work being done. The person pulling the permits is the person responsible for ensuring the work meets all codes, so you want that to be the contractor.
Be sure if you sign an estimate, it isn’t obligating you to use that particular company.
Do not use your house as collateral on a loan for repairs. If the loan is not repaid, you could lose your home.
Flooding is always a possibility. By purchasing flood insurance, which is a separate policy, and having a flood response plan in place, you can save a lot of time, money and heartache.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. Contact the BBB at 478-742-7999, www.bbb.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.