After the Storm: Hire the Right Contractor for the Job
HARTFORD, January 28 -- Anyone who needs home services or suffers damage to their property as a result of a storm or other natural disaster no doubt wants to get the job done as soon as possible, but hiring someone who comes calling uninvited could lead to more problems, Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris said today.
“A serious storm or natural disaster could require quick home repairs that you weren’t expecting, but it’s important to act, and not react,” Harris said. “Hiring unqualified, unregistered, unverified workers could put you and your home in a deeper mess. These 12 points will help consumers get the work done without opening themselves up for more trouble.”
· Snow removal is not considered home improvement work -- even removal of snow from roofs. But it’s best to have someone who is qualified in roof work to remove snow from roofs; someone unfamiliar with certain types of roofs could cause damage and void the warranty. If your roof is damaged and needs repair, hire a registered home improvement contractor; roof repair is covered under the Home Improvement Act.
· When hiring anyone to clear snow and ice from your driveways and walkways, be sure to negotiate the price upfront and know the scope of the work.
· Anytime there is damage to your property, notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible.
· Don’t hire home repair contractors who go door-to-door, who call, or who post notices on bulletin boards or telephone poles or online, such as Craigslist before checking them out thoroughly.
· Verify the registration, insurance, and if appropriate, the professional license of any worker before agreeing to let them work on your property. Find out how to verify a contractor's license at this link: http://www.ct.gov/dcp/cwp/view.asp?a=4308HYPERLINK "http://www.ct.gov/dcp/cwp/view.asp?a=4308&q=507962%20"&HYPERLINK "http://www.ct.gov/dcp/cwp/view.asp?a=4308&q=507962%20"q=507962
· All home improvement contractors -- including persons who install and repair gutters, roofs, fences, siding, insulation, windows, masonry and underground fuel storage tanks -- must be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection.
· Also, plumbers, electricians, heating and ventilation workers, sheet metal workers, electricians and many other professionals require a separate, current Connecticut professional license in order to practice their craft. You may call the Department of Consumer Protection to learn what licenses are needed, or go to this web page.
· To protect consumers, contracts are required for most jobs over $200. No matter how urgent the situation, it’s best to get a detailed contract. Check all the terms and conditions, materials, start date, end date and costs, and if necessary, insist that any changes be written in. Both the consumer and contractor must sign and date the contract, and the consumer should get a completed copy for safekeeping.
· Don't be rushed into a contract! Take your time; this is a legal, binding document. However, you have three days to cancel the home improvement contract after you sign it. The 3-day cancellation notice should be part of your written contract.
· Contractors must print their Connecticut license number on their contracts, business cards, on their vehicles, and in all advertising. Contractors should carry their own liability insurance and must be able to produce an insurance certificate as proof. If the contractor has employees, that contractor should carry worker’s compensation insurance and must be able to provide proof. The certificate of insurance should carry the name of the insurance company and the homeowner is urged to call the insurance agency on the certificate to confirm that coverage. To verify if an insurance agent or agency is licensed in Connecticut, please contact the Connecticut Insurance Department.
· The homeowner has final responsibility for making sure that any required building permit is in place before the work starts. This is for your protection, to make sure the final job complies with all local and state building codes and requirements.
· You should NEVER pay in advance for any work, especially in an emergency situation. Depending on the length of the job, you may need to pay some upfront, some half-way through the job, and the final payment once the job is complete to your satisfaction. Payment should be made by credit card or check, rather than cash.
Anyone with home improvement questions or concerns about a contractor or suspected price gouging is encouraged to contact the Department of Consumer Protection at dcp.fraudsHYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" @ct.gov or call us at 1-800-842-2649. Visit our Home Improvement web pages for additional guidance.