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June 22, 2015– Hiring a contractor is never easy.  And it’s even more nerve-wracking when you’re trying to clean up after a storm.  Whether you are cleaning up from high winds, downed trees or even a tornado, you need to take certain precautions when it comes to hiring a contractor.  

When you find yourself in need of an improvement or repair, Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Detroit and Eastern Michigan recommends these tips you should consider before hiring a contractor or signing any contracts:

• Stay calm. Although you may be anxious, especially after a storm, don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision.

• Contact your insurance company first.  By contacting your insurance company first, you are able to determine what the insurance company will cover, who they recommend to do the repairs and what they need from you and/or your contractor to pay the claim.  Without that knowledge in hand, you may end up paying for the entire repair.  

• Shop around. Get at least 3 estimates based on the same specifications and materials.

• Verify credentials and reputation. Verify that any contractor you are considering is licensed, insured and, if required in your area, that they are registered to do the work. Also, check with your city or county inspection department to see if they have any concerns about the contractors you are considering.

You can also search for them at bbb.org to see if the business(es) have any outstanding consumer complaints or government actions against them.

• Be wary of door-to-door solicitors. Beware of contractors that show up at your door stating they have left-over materials from another job or are “in the area” and have special deals for those who sign immediately.

• Trust your gut. If you are worried about possible structural damage to your roof, have a certified inspector look at it first before calling a contractor. Do not allow someone you do not know to inspect your roof as they may actually create damage to get the work or exaggerate the extent of the repairs needed.

• Get everything in writing. Get a written contract agreement with the company’s name, address, license number and phone number included. Read the contract thoroughly and make sure you get a copy immediately after you sign.

In regard to contracts, below are some items your estimate and contract should include:

• The materials to be included in the work, including manufacturer, manufacturer’s product code, color, etc.

• Scope of work to be done – i.e. removal or replacement of existing structures. Don’t assume that removal of debris is included – get it in writing.

• Responsible party for repairing/replacing any damage that occurs during the course of the work,

• Approximate starting and completion dates ,

• Payment procedures.  Never pay the entire cost of the repair upfront.  Do not pay for the repair with cash.  

• Length of warranty, what is covered and who is responsible for warranty repairs.  

• Whether the work, outlined in the contract, will be completed by the company itself or a subcontractor.

Also keep in mind, if you received an estimate that is significantly less than the others it could sound much better than it actually is. Some less than reputable companies can bid below-cost because they use substandard materials or shoddy workmanship.

The bottom line is, never feel pressured to make such an important decision.   Make sure you are well informed before you sign on the dotted line.  And remember that BBB has Business Reviews on more than 7,000 contractors available for free at www.bbb.org/detroit that you can use as a guideline when searching for the best fit for your situation.

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