8 Things to know before hiring a contractor for storm repairs
Insurance can be a real godsend if your home receives storm damage, but it only writes the checks. It’s up to the homeowner to get the work done and finding good, reliable contractors can be a challenge. You want to know the work will be done correctly, timely and completely. If a problem turns up later, you’ll need to be able to get in contact with the contractor to make it right. Many property damage claims are made after a major catastrophe and local contractors are quickly booked up. Out of state companies come in to fill the demand. The question is, who can you trust? Here are some general tips to reduce your risks and have a more favorable outcome:
1. Make sure your contractor is licensed in Iowa.
Why is important to have a licensed contractor? If you hire an unlicensed contractor, you are assuming more risk. You become the de facto general contractor and are responsible for the quality of work and it is in compliance with the local building codes. Ask for their Iowa license number and verify by looking it up on the Iowa Workforce Development site. You can search by registration number or by contractor/business name. Search for an Iowa contractor.
2. Ask for a certificate of insurance.
They should have both:
- General liability insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
Without workers compensation insurance, you could be held liable if a contractor or their employee is injured while working on your property. If your contractor were to accidentally damage your neighbor’s property when working on your house and they don’t have general liability insurance, you can be personally liable. The certificate of insurance should be in the name of the business doing the work and the effective dates of the policy should cover the time your work is being done. Look for a minimum of $1M in liability coverage.
3. Check credentials.
- Talk to references. Make sure they are not outdated, their work should’ve be done in the last few years.
- Do a Google search and check several sites, including BBB.org. Look for user reviews and beware of anyone with too many complaints.
- Ask how long they have been doing this kind of work (both as an independent contractor and working for someone else).
4. Get a detailed, written estimate.
It should include everything on your insurance estimate (unless you hire multiple contractors). Don’t allow unlimited or unspecified rates for labor or material. They should refer to your insurance estimate for materials and give you a flat fee.
- Upgrades or work outside the scope of the insurance estimate should be approved by your insurance adjuster especially if you’re going over your budget.
- Ask about Class 4 impact resistant shingles. Have you noticed that not all roofs in your neighborhood are damaged the same? It may be some have newer or higher quality shingles. Class 4 shingles cost more than standard shingles, but they can help prevent the need for re-roofing after every storm saving you from another insurance claim. Many insurance companies give generous discounts, up to 15%, for Class 4 shingles so the extra cost can be negligible. Not all roofers will suggest it because repeat customers are good for their business.
5. Get a general timeline.
Depending on the extent of the damage, a delayed schedule can expose your home to further damage. Make sure you are in agreement on the timeline.
6. Know who’s doing the work.
Will they be doing the work with their own crew or subbing out all or part of the work? Check the sub’s credentials as well.
7. Ask about warranties.
Not all contractors will guaranty their work. If one does, get the details in writing and make sure you are able to follow up with them years down the line.
8. Don’t pay in advance.
I’ve been burnt by this personally and had to pay legal fees to get my money back when the contractor abandoned the job. No more than 15% down should be necessary to secure your place on their calendar. If they don’t have good credit with their material vendors, that’s a red flag for you.
Storm damage from the August 10, 2020 derecho in Iowa.