So, your house was destroyed and it’s time to rebuild. You’re probably going to need a contractor. Unfortunately, there are a lot of slimeballs out there who will undoubtedly do whatever they can to scam hurricane victims and exploit a natural disaster for personal gain.
But there are ways to reduce the risk of getting victimized by these shameless hurricane opportunists — many of which are explained by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Last night, Schneiderman offered suggestions on how to keep New York’s hurricane victims safe from predatory scumbags looking to rip us off.
See Schneiderman’s suggestions below.
Check with your insurance company.
Before making any decisions, be clear about what will be covered and any steps you will need to take.
Ask for references, check for licenses.
Ask about local work contractors have done. Talk to the people who hired them; look at the jobs if you can. Make sure the contractor has any license required by your local government.
Estimates are important: get it in writing.
Ask that all estimates for work be in writing and include a description of the material to be used. Be clear that you will not pay for work done that is not agreed upon in writing. Verify that the material used is the same as described in the estimate. Make sure any changes to the estimate are in writing.
Know your rights
Home improvement contractors are required by law to establish to an escrow account to hold the homeowners’ un-disbursed funds when a contract is in excess of $500. Also, a homeowner has a three-day right to cancel a contract unless during an emergency, the homeowner has waived the three-day rule in writing.
Use a contractor with an address you can verify.
If your contractor is “here today and gone tomorrow,” you may find it difficult to enforce the guarantee.
Never pay the full price up front.
Establish a payment schedule and adhere to it. Withhold final payment until the entire project is completed to your satisfaction and all required inspections and certificates of occupancy are finalized.
Always be sure the contractor has valid insurance.
If a worker is injured, or damage is caused on your property, you could be held liable if your contractor does not have the required insurance.
Check with your town or city for required permits.
Don’t let a contractor work without the necessary permits. Failing to get approvals can delay your project, or prevent you from occupying a completed building.
Price Gouging: New York State law forbids those selling essential consumer goods and services — like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services such as storm clean-up and disposal — from charging excessive prices during an abnormal disruption of the market. If you believe you are a victim of price gouging, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 800-771-7755 or find a complaint form online at: www.ag.ny.gov.