If your home or business experienced damage as a result of these week’s flooding, it’s important to connect with repair services you can trust. Here are tips from the Better Business Bureau to protect both your money and your home or business.
Check your insurance policy – Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners or renter’s insurance policies. In some high-risk flood areas, home and business owners may be required by law to carry flood insurance. To learn more about your Hawaii’s requirements, check with the state Insurance Commissioner.
Repairing the damage – Don't make any permanent changes to your property until you get approval from your insurance provider. They may not fully reimburse you for repairs made without their permission. Take photos of the storm damage to show your insurance company.
Get multiple opinions – Shop around and get at least three different estimates before deciding on a contractor. Make sure the estimates are broken down the same way. Watch out for high-pressure sales tactics and less than trustworthy businesses — research company profiles at BBB.org to find reputable contractors. You can find more helpful tips on choosing a reliable contractor here.
Ask for proof of liability, workers compensation, and licensing – Verify the contractor has the correct license to do work in your state. This protects you in case something happens while working on your property.
Get everything in writing – Demand a written contract from anyone you hire. Written, detailed proposals broken down into separate line items indicate that the contractor is being thorough and has prepared an accurate estimate. The following is a partial list of things your estimate or proposal should include:
- The type of material used, manufacturer, and color
- Scope of work to be done, including material and labor costs
- Who is responsible for repairing/replacing exterior landscape or interior finishes that are damaged during the work? Ensure that your contract contains language addressing who is responsible for any damage that occurs due to the job.
- Approximate starting and completion dates
- Payment procedures
- Length of warranty and what is covered, e.g., workmanship, water leakage, etc
- Who will haul away the old materials and project waste? Is there an extra charge for this service?
Beware of Scams
It is also wise to be on the lookout for scammers seeking to take advantage of an owner's haste to repair the damage. Here are a few red flags to be wary of:
- Door-to-door workers who claim to have leftover materials. If salespeople go door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits and ask for identification. Avoid agreeing to front porch sales pitches. Instead, take your time to research the business before contacting them to pursue further details and agreements.
- A contractor who shows up unannounced and claims your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect, or building official inspect it. While most roofing contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may create damage to get work.
- Never pay in full for all repairs in advance. Avoid paying with cash and instead use a credit card if possible as it may provide you additional protection if there's a problem. While many companies may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more than one-third of the job be paid upfront. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor. The final payment should be made only after the work is complete and all subcontractors have been paid.
- Businesses without local addresses. When looking for a reputable business that can help with the cleanup, start by visiting org; if a company doesn't have a permanent place of business, this may be cause for concern. Always ask for references and verify them independently.
How to Prepare for a Flood Disaster
If you haven't been affected by storm damage, you should still prepare for future disasters. Here are some simple steps that businesses and homeowners can take to reduce the impact of natural disasters:
- Take pictures/video of your business or home as a point of reference in the event of an emergency.
- Back up critical digital files on a portable external hard drive and store them away from the office.
- Properly anchor fuel and propane tanks so they don't float away in case of flooding. Also, ensure you keep your fuel levels full ahead of storms.
- Have copies of your insurance policies on hand and have an electronic version available.
- Collect family photos and other mementos in a centralized and easily accessible area, preferably in a watertight container.
- Keep medicines together in a waterproof container.
- Prepare an emergency kit with a change of clothes, weather-appropriate footwear, flashlight, water, and battery or crank-operated radio to monitor the weather without electricity.
- Discuss your emergency plan with your family. Designate a "safe place" inside if you have to take shelter and a meeting place outside in case you have to evacuate.