Burned Once, Burned Twice-How to avoid rip-off after a house fire.
Home is where your heart is, and rebuilding after a fire is a heartbreaking undertaking-especially if you are cheated by a scam artist. To help ensure contractor competency, you should verify a contractor’s qualifications. Government required professional licenses and insurance is a must-have. To verify a contractor's compliancy with the law, do this:
1. Determine if the contractor requires a professional license for his or her trade. (Note that a professional license is different from a business license. The professional license pertains to the individual, and the business license pertains to the business.)
2. Confirm compliancy when professional licensing is required.
Victims of the California Valley Fires should visit the California State Licensing Board (CSLB) website to perform this research. The CSLB lists the types of contractors that require a license, and also provides a database to research the contractor’s credentials. If a complaint has been filed with the California licensing board, this information is also available on their website. Unfortunately, Workers’ Comp information is not readily available in California. Unlike the State of Florida that maintains a “proof of (WC) coverage” database, California residents need to ask their contractors for their certificate of insurance (COI) . To ensure authenticity, the COI should be sent directly from the insurer to you-the homeowner. General Liability Insurance is also verified by insurers' COIs. When evaulating credentials, it is essential to obtain information from sound sources like government websites and legitimate insurance companies. This is especially noteworthy after a disaster when scam artists arrive with forged paper documents.
Determining a contractor’s competency is hard work but helps ensure that your work is performed by a qualified individual. Licensing and insurance compliancy is the first step. Here is additional research you should perform.
1. Research your state’s professional licensing requirement for contractors (and confirm compliancy) at:
a. State Professional Licensing Divisions
b. Building Departments
2. Confirm Workers’ Comp insurance at:
a. State websites
b. Contractor’s insurance company
3. Confirm General Liability insurance at:
a. Contractor’s insurance company
4. Research the contractor’s qualifications and character through:
a. Legal records (held at Clerk of Court)
b. Professional Associations like Home Builders Association
c. Building Department permit database
d. General web search inquires
5. Obtain and verify references obtained from contractor, or better yet, from an independant third party like the building department permit database.
Although emotions run high after a disaster, don’t rush into repairs and rebuilding without vetting your contractor and understanding the “business” of construction.