STILLWATER – High-speed winds, large hail and torrential rain made the perfect trifecta to cause extreme damage across parts of Oklahoma recently. Many homeowners found themselves boarding up windows and soaking up water in their homes.
The road to recovery from such a storm can be long, but the key is finding the right contractor to repair damages, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension interim associate dean and housing and consumer specialist.
“While there are many reputable companies who will do good work, a weather disaster can bring out those fly-by-night companies who do nothing more than take a consumer’s money or do shoddy work,” Peek said. “Homeowners who have suffered damage want to get work done as quickly as possible, but it’s important to take some time and hire the right contractor with a proven track record.”
Before signing a home-repair contract, check out potential companies with the Better Business Bureau. Also, check into the contractor’s insurance. It’s important that the contractor carries general liability insurance and worker’s compensation coverage.
“This protects the homeowner from liability should an accident occur on the property. It’s a good idea to get several written estimates before deciding on a company,” she said. “This gives the homeowner an opportunity to compare prices and services before making a final decision. Some contractors may charge a fee for a written estimate.”
Once a contractor has been selected, get a written contract and make sure it spells out all aspects of the work, including the work to be completed, who is paying for materials, who is responsible for applying for any needed permits, and a completion date. It’s a good idea to have an attorney look over the contract, especially if the cost is substantial.
Never sign a blank contract or one that has blank spaces. Be wary of companies offering big discounts for consumers willing to pay the total up front in cash. The best protection is to put the payment on a credit card.
Peek said homeowners should expect to put up about a 30% down payment, which typically is paid when materials are delivered. The final payment should be made only after the work is complete and done to the homeowner’s satisfaction.
“A sense of urgency during these trying times is normal, but it’s important to do your homework and thoroughly check out any company you’re considering hiring to do your repairs,” Peek said. “You obviously want to have your home back to normal as soon as possible, but you also want to make sure you’re protecting the investment.”