FEMA Suggests Caution to Katrina Victims When Hiring Contractors
JACKSON, Miss. – Many Mississippians whose
homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina’s onslaught are
beginning to repair and rebuild. The Mississippi Emergency Management
Agency (MEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) have some practical suggestions for those who
plan to hire contractors to help with their rebuilding efforts.
“As the real work of the rebuilding effort gets under
way, we are offering property owners some brief guidelines and resource
information that we hope will help ensure success during reconstruction,”
said Federal Coordinating Officer Nick Russo.
- Use reliable,
licensed contractors: Exercise due diligence. If you’d had positive
experience with local contractors previously, start there. If they are
unavailable, ask them for referrals. Check contractors’ background for
outstanding complaints with the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi at
1-800-987-8280. Ensure the contractors are properly licensed through
the Mississippi State Board of Contractors at 1-800-880-6161 or the
Disaster Contractors Network online at www.DCNonline.org. FEMA and MEMA do
NOT certify or endorse any contractor.
- Check references:
Contact contractors’ former clients to find out their level of
satisfaction with the work.
- Ask for proof of
insurance: Make sure the contractors have general liability and
worker’s compensation insurance. If they don’t, YOU may be held
liable for accidents on your property.
- Get a written
estimate: Get more than one contractor to give you an estimate.
Insist on getting a written estimate that includes everything you expect
of the contractor. Generally there is no fee for an estimate.
- Building permits:
Contact your local municipality for details regarding the permit(s)
required for the work you intend to do.
- Contracts: Make
sure the contract is clear and spells out all of the specific work to be
completed, costs, payment schedule and timeframe. NEVER sign a
- Canceling a
contract: If necessary, canceling a contract should be done within
three business days of signing the agreement. Be sure to follow the
agreements stated in the cancellation clause(s) in your contract. Send
the notification by registered mail with a return receipt for the
contractor to sign.
FEMA Suggests Caution to Katrina Victims When
Hiring Contractors…page two
- Ask for a written
guarantee: If the contractor provides guarantees, get all
information in writing and include as many specifics as possible on
coverage, expirations and limitations.
- Have work
inspected: Make sure all work is completed as agreed upon in the
contract to your satisfaction before you sign any completion papers or
issue final payment.
- Payment: The
safest way to pay is by check. A reasonable amount for a down payment is
30 percent of the total project cost.
- Get a receipt:
Ask the contractor for all receipts related to your project.
Consumers who have issues
regarding contractors should contact the Consumer Protection Division at
the Mississippi Attorney General’s office toll-free at 1-800-281-4418
or online at
www.ago.state.ms.us. To report fraud, call the FEMA toll-free hotline