Unfortunately, along with the pain and suffering experienced as a result of natural disasters, unknowing homeowners can become victim to fraud, waste, and abuse. As discussed below, there are a number of important facts to be aware of when repairing or rebuilding your home.

Get written estimates from at least three companies. Insist on a written contract and do not pay a contractor cash up front or on a lump sum basis. To avoid a contractor absconding with your money, set up a contractor payment or draw schedule, which is a pay schedule, based on project milestones, and which ties payments to certain benchmarks. For example:

    10% upfront (for materials and supplies)
    10% for finishing drywall and paint
    15% for finishing carpentry
    15% for passing plumbing inspection
    15% for passing HVAC inspection
    15% for passing electrical inspection
•   20% for completing final punch list and passing any final municipal inspections

Have a plan for storage of materials and supplies and security and liability issues associated therewith.

Perform proper mold remediation efforts. Utilize proper techniques or seek reputable companies who may offer a warranty or guarantee their work.

Remember to keep in contact with municipal authorities for proper certificates of inspection. Please beware that the city may require inspections at various phases of the repair. If you prematurely rebuild or repair your home, the city may require you to tear down drywall so they can get behind the walls to inspect electrical or plumbing before granting a certificate. Your contractor (or volunteers from private non-profits) may or may not be aware of this. If this happens, who will be responsible if additional work is necessary due to this?

The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has set up consumer tips and provided a basic (very basic) sample contract for home repairs: https://www.ag.state.la.us/Files/Consumer%20Tips%20for%20Natural%20Distaster%20Victims.pdf

FEMA also has tips in place to protect homeowners from becoming victims of unscrupulous contractors: http://www.fema.gov/news-release/2006/01/25/not-all-contractors-are-licensed-fema-warns

Check federal, state, and local resources to ensure a contractor is not debarred or suspended or has had his license revoked. A good federal resource is www.sam.gov. A good state resource is http://www.lslbc.louisiana.gov. Check with your local officials for contractor licensing issues. In the city of Baton Rouge, there is a local ordinance requiring that the builder be licensed in the City of Baton Rouge, Parish of East Baton Rouge. There are also specific rules for Homeowners Acting As Contractors. Check with your local municipality for acts either temporarily restricting, waiving or relaxing or expanding present rules and regulations during times like these.

If you have further questions, please visit www.LHENRYLAW.com and go to the “Contact Us” page to set up an appointment for a free consultation.