Tips on hiring contractors for flood damage

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 5:06 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - If hurricane, winter storm, and flood recovery have you feeling like a character in the movie Groundhog Day, you’re not alone.

Now is no time to let desperation cause you to make bad decisions.

You may feel like you’d do anything to see the light of the end of the recovery tunnel, but doing your homework and having patience will likely pay off.

Britney Lyons and her family are living in an RV and storing their belongings in a pod in the front yard.

They were seeing real progress with hurricane repairs when flood waters invaded her home and storage pod a week ago.

Though she feels like she’s back to square one, she had thoroughly vetted her contractor and is sure the company will stick with her to the end.

“I feel very confident. I’ve checked them out. I’ve checked their references, checked their license, verified insurance, all that I’ve received with communication from my contractors,” Lyons said.

Angela Guth with the Better Business Bureau of Southwest Louisiana says consumers need to do their research.

“Never give money up front until the project is either complete or phases or done. We have had some contractors that say after phase one, you can make a down payment. After phase two, maybe you can make a down payment, but never pay money up front,” Guth said.

Contractor Jason Williams agrees. He says local contractors are busy, in some cases trying to get those worst off back into their home or business first.

“What we are trying to do is get people back operational, and the faster we can get people operational, the faster they can start generating income,” Williams said. “Then once they’re moved in their facility, we’re going back and doing a lot of finish work.”

Williams and Guth have other tips, too. To determine whether a someone needs a license to work on your house, look at the size and cost of the job. If it’s over $7,500, Guth says they need a license.

Contractors should have a license with the State Contractor Licensing Board and be in good standing with the Louisiana Secretary of State.

Guth also recommends trying to get three bids, so you can compare prices. Even if someone doesn’t need to be licensed, ask for references. It’s also important to check out warranties and consider the issue of whether a local contractor will be easier to track down than someone out of state if you need someone to make good on a warranty.

Also, they say a contractor should have general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. Williams says it’s best for out-of-state contractors to work under a local general contractor.

Williams also talks about the importance of pulling a permit with local governmental authorities, and that contractors are well aware they could be subject to penalties if they do not.

Williams says another part of the problem with getting work done is the disparity between the cost of materials and insurance estimates. For example, he says lumber for a job he was doing for a friend was bid at $9,000 more than a year ago, and now the lumber is $15,000.

Williams points out contractors too have damage to their homes and businesses they are trying to get repaired and operational.

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