State Warns of Storm/Flooding Damage Scams

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The state's Emergency Operations Center is warning home and business owners to be careful before hiring anyone to repair storm and flooding damage. All electricians, plumbers and mechanical contractors are required to be licensed with the Bureau of Construction Codes. You can verify their information by clicking the link in this story or by calling (517) 241-9313. It's also a good idea to follow this advice:

- Ask the individual to show you his/her “pocket card,” which will contain the license number.

- Ask for and verify references.

- Get at least three written estimates to include detailed job specifications on the materials, labor, timeline and total charges for the work. Don't automatically choose the lowest bidder.

- Obtain a detailed written contract stating exactly what work will be done, the quality of the materials used, warranties, start and completion dates, total cost of the job, and a payment schedule.

- Never sign a contract with blank spaces. Know your cancellation rights.

- Protect yourself by asking the contractor, subcontractor and suppliers for a completed and signed "waiver of lien" form. This may provide you additional protection should a subcontractor or material supplier place a lien on your home if the contractor doesn't pay the bills. This can happen even if you paid the contract in full.

- Make sure your contractor is insured and carries personal liability, worker's compensation, and property damage coverage. Ask for copies of current insurance certificates. If the contractor is not properly insured, you could be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.

- Check with your property insurance provider for the extent of your coverage.

- Avoid paying for the entire job upfront. Consider paying one-third in advance; one-third halfway through the job and the final payment upon satisfactory completion. Avoid paying with cash. Pay by check or credit card and get a receipt.

- Keep good records including copies of the contract, change orders and correspondence.

- Don’t forget your permit, if needed, by checking with your local or state building department. The proper permits and inspections help to guard against defective work or costly mistakes. If homeowners plan on doing the work themselves, they are also responsible for obtaining building permits.

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