When a disaster damages your home, getting it repaired is a top priority.
As tempting as a quick fix might be, the first thing you should do is contact your insurance company to report the loss, according to Brad Oltmans, vice president of insurance for AAA Arizona.
Insurance experts also recommend preventing further loss to your property to the extent possible. However, they caution against throwing away damaged property until your insurance company advises you it is alright to do so.
“Take pictures documenting damages and keep copies of your insurance documents and a record of communication with your insurance company, including names of the people you speak with, dates, times and important information,” Oltmans said.
Above all, choose your contractor carefully. Property repair fraud usually involves unethical or incompetent building contractors. Make sure the contractor is licensed, and ask to see the contractor’s license along with other identification.
“If someone claims to be representing a contractor, but cannot show you a contractor’s license or home improvement salesperson registration card, call the contractor and find out if the person is authorized to act on their behalf,” Oltmans said.
Consider it a red flag if your contractor:
- Does not have a local office or local telephone number.
- Is not willing to provide references.
- Uses a hotel or restaurant as their contact location.
- Handles all business in person, avoiding the use of mail.
- Wants a full cash payment up front.
- Does not have adequate equipment to perform the job.
- Approaches you at a loss site without being solicited.
- Gives an estimate that is very general.
- Does not have a contractor’s license bond.
- Is unwilling to provide a certificate of insurance from their general liability or workers compensation insurance carrier.
- Gives you a bid far below the bids you received from other contractors.
Help fight fraud
The most common fraud that takes place after a disaster generally involves price gouging, incompetent work, use of poor-quality materials, unauthorized property removal and fraudulent charitable solicitations. Because property loss from a disaster can be so traumatic, victims of disaster can become easy targets for fraud. If you suspect fraudulent activity, contact the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, the governing body for Arizona contractors.
Before you hire a contractor (source: Arizona Registrar of Contractors)
- Review the contractor’s license record.
- Make certain the contractor’s license class allows for the work listed in the contract.
- Request a list of references and check them.
- Verify the person you are negotiating your project with is an authorized representative of the licensed contractor by calling the contractor’s number listed on the Registrar of Contractors license record.
- Ask for written estimates from at least three contractors.
- Make sure a detailed list/description of the project, including the price, the responsibility to obtain building permits and any other relevant terms, is spelled out in the estimate.
– Michelle Donati-Grayman is communications manager for AAA Arizona.