There’s a good possibility that if you have suffered a house fire, you’ll need to employ contractors for repairs at some point.
Unfortunately, there are risks involved when hiring a contractor or handyman to work on your fire-damaged house.
Here are nine things to do before you employ a contractor so that you can protect yourself and your fire-damaged house:
Ask your friends, relatives, and neighbors if they recently hired a contractor, handyman, plumber, heating/air company, or electrician and, if so, if they would hire that individual or business once more. Check with your friends and family to see if the project was finished on schedule and on budget. Identify the accuracy of the contractor’s estimates.
Look the contractor up online.
Investigate prospective contractors using a search engine. Online customer reviews – whether positive or negative – can reveal a lot about a potential contractor. Review a number of rating websites to discover what other people have said about the contractors you are considering. Additionally, see whether any complaints have been made about possible contractors with the Better Business Bureau.
Ask for the names and contact information for a few recent clients of the contractors you are considering. Then consult the references provided by the contractors to learn if they were pleased with the results. Inquire about any issues that have arisen since the job was finished and whether the contractor dealt with them. Find out if the task was finished on time and if the final cost was consistent with the contractor’s estimate.
Verify the insurance and license status of your contractor.
Most states require contractors to be licensed to work on projects. So you should check to see if the contractors you are considering have the proper licensing. Another thing to check is if your prospective contractors are adequately insured. Make sure the contractors have worker’s compensation insurance and property damage insurance in particular.
If something goes wrong with your project or someone gets hurt, these insurance coverages will safeguard you. Keep in mind, in many states contractors are not obliged to have worker’s compensation insurance if they employ fewer than three people. To verify that the insurance is in effect, ask for certificates of insurance or declaration sheets.
Request several quotes.
Obtain two to four quotes from various contractors. Keep in mind the saying, “You get what you pay for.” This doesn’t necessary imply that you must choose the priciest contractor, but it may be a warning if one estimate is much lower than all of the others. It’s possible the contractor has plans to use subpar materials or take short cuts. In an effort to win your business, the contractor might have purposefully underbid the project, just to later raise the price.
Have it documented.
Never pay a contractor before receiving a written contract stating all the work they will be performing on your property. The more specific the work is explained, the better. Additionally, the contract needs to include start and end dates as well as the cost of any items that will be used.
Find out if the contract price is a final cost estimate or an estimate that may vary as the project progresses. Make sure the contract says that the job cannot cost more than a certain amount if the contract price is an estimate.
Include a clause in the contract stating that only revisions made in writing are permitted. Also, make sure that the contractor is offering a labor and material guarantee and that it is detailed in your contract, including who to contact to submit a claim under the warranty, any limitations on the warranty’s scope, and the warranty’s duration.
All of the contractor’s obligations should be clearly outlined in the contract. For instance, the contract must state whether the contractor would move furniture and then put it back once the service is finished if you are having the flooring redone.
You should also make clear whether the contractor is in charge of clearing up after the project is finished and disposing of all construction waste. Finally, under most state law, the contractor is generally not obligated by any commitments made to you prior to signing the contract that are not spelled out in writing. So, make sure those pledges are written into the contract if you want to ensure that the contractor keeps all of their commitments.
Specify a timetable for payments in the contract.
Never give a contractor more than 50% of the total cost up front. Your initial payment should, depending on the scope of the project, not exceed about 30% of the whole expense. The contract should state that each subsequent payment is only payable once certain project phases have been completed and should also establish a deadline for the completion of each phase.
Make sure you have the authority to approve each disbursement if a bank will be giving a construction loan. You have the right to withhold payment until the contractor completes the phase for which you have already paid if the deadline for your next payment approaches or if your contractor requests a future payment from you.
Always use a traceable method of payment for your contractor, such as a check, credit card, or debit card. Make sure that all work has been finished and is up to par before giving your contractor the final payment.
Be aware that you will be required to pay for any improvements or additional work that you request. It is frequently tempting to request enhanced materials or additional work once a project has begun. If your contractor concurs, you should find out how much the additional labor or material will cost and obtain a written estimate before the job is completed.
Keep accurate records.
A copy of your contract, every payment you’ve made, any changes or modifications, and any communications with your contractor should all be kept on file. Even if you spoke with them on the phone or in person, be sure to write them a letter or email to remember the encounter.
Want to skip hiring a contractor?
You can skip the repair process by selling your home “as is” to We Buy Fire Damaged Houses. To see if your home qualifies for a free quote, fill out the short form below.