Protect Yourself After a Disaster
If your home or property has been damaged by a fire, flood, earthquake or other disaster, please follow these tips and guidelines before you hire a contractor or sign any documents for repairs.
Hire a Licensed Contractor
- Deal with state licensed contractors.
- Get proof that the contractor you’re considering working with is licensed. Get their license number and check the status of the contractor’s license here (link to license/qualifier search). Work with licensed contractors who have an active license.
- Some out-of-state contractors and unlicensed contractors want to help with rebuilding in disaster areas; however, it is illegal and a punishable misdemeanor to perform contracting work in North Carolina without a contractor’s license issued by the Board.
- Ask your contractor for three written references. When speaking with the references, confirm they were satisfied with the contractor’s work and if the contractor kept to the schedule and contract terms.
- Require a written contract. The contract should be a detailed description of the work to be done, the material to be used and the equipment to be installed. Be sure there is a schedule of payments and a time line for when the work will be completed. Be sure you understand the contract before you sign it. Any changes that occur should be noted in writing.
- Contact your local building permit office to see if permits are required to assure code compliance before construction to protect your health, safety and welfare.
- Before making the final payment, make sure that you are satisfied with the completed work. Verify that any and all liens have been released.
Get it in Writing
Obtain a written contract that clearly states all tasks to be performed, all associated costs and the payment schedule. Any guarantees made by the contractor should be written into the contract. The guarantee should clearly state what is guaranteed, who is responsible for the guarantee and how long the guarantee is valid. Avoid verbal promises, agreements or contracts.
Avoid Payment Pitfalls
Don’t let the payments get ahead of the work. Keep records of all payments and receipts. Avoid on- the-spot cash payments. The safest method of payment is by check. Make sure you have the names of the subcontractors and material suppliers and obtain confirmation that they have been paid.
Avoid Being the Victim of a Scam
Don’t let unscrupulous people take advantage of you during a vulnerable time. Follow these guidelines before hiring a contractor for any repairs.
- Don’t rush into repairs, no matter how badly they are needed.
- Get at least three bids. Don’t hire the first contractor who comes along.
- Be cautious about door-to-door offers of repair services and flyers or business cards that are left at your door.
- Ask friends, family and associates for recommendations about contractors they have used.
- NEVER pay in cash.
- Contractors may not undertake projects in North Carolina where the cost is $30,000 or more unless they hold a license from the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors.
- Get a written contract that details every aspect of the work plan.