We know many homeowners in south Florida have suffered severe damage to their homes from Hurricane Ian. Many are likely trying to work with their insurance company now to agree on the amount and scope of the damages and begin to get repairs underway. Some homeowners hire a contractor to put together an estimate to submit to the insurance company to show their valuation of the damages. However, know that—unlike simply asking a contractor to prepare an estimate—by agreeing to enter into a contract with any contractor or other restoration, repair, or remediation company, you are entering into a relationship wherein you will be trusting that vendor to fulfill his or her promise and provide the quality work you need for the price you both agreed. Do not make a hasty selection simply because you feel desperate. Here are some tips you can follow to vet any contractor or other repair company before hiring.
Vet Contractors Before Hiring
Beware of door-to-door contractors who are looking to take advantage of homeowners after mass disasters like Hurricane Ian. The need for their work is high and the homeowners are often desperate for immediate repairs, so the situation often attracts contractors who are unqualified and make costly mistakes.
Seek referrals and check credentials to make sure that the contractor you are considering is licensed with the state, operates a reputable business, and has valid insurance which will not expire before your job's completion. You can verify licensing with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Contractors often hire subcontractors to perform some repairs. Make sure that your contractor specifies in the work contract who they will hire so you can check the credentials of these subcontractors as well.
Get Estimates and Contracts in Writing
Get estimates in writing and obtain bids from at least three reputable contractors.
Read and understand the work contract and make sure the: 1) start and completion dates; 2) the scope of the repairs; 3) all materials; 4) costs; and 5) the payment schedule are all included in the contract and are in writing.
Order and Proof of Payment
Do not pay more than twenty to thirty percent upfront and never pay in cash. Keep all credit card and check receipts along the way as proof of payment.
Understand the Florida construction lien laws and how they can impact your property rights if your contractor or subcontractors are not paid pursuant to their contracts. You can learn more about Florida's construction law and liens here.
Know What Temporary Repairs Are Required and Authorized
Damage to your property can occur from forces of nature like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and fire, as well as the negligence of others like careless drivers or faulty workmen. Often you will need to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage, however your insurance may not cover permanent repairs. To ensure you make the best decision about repairs to your property after an accident or storm, either discuss the planned repairs with your insurance company first or contact an insurance law attorney to discuss your damages and your anticipated repairs.