Part 4 of 4 – Tips on Hiring a Contractor After a Disaster

Make sure to get an accurate estimate and an agreed upon scope of work.

Insurance Claim ResourcesIf your home has been damaged or destroyed by a disaster, you will be faced with the task of getting accurate estimates to repair or replace what was damaged prior to the disaster.  This usually requires multiple contractors to provide detailed line-by-line estimates along with descriptions of the materials to be used and pricing.  This is a critical step in the recovery process that cannot be over emphasized.  If the adjuster or contractors fail to accurately estimate the scope and cost to perform the work, you may be faced with a very bad situation that could even cause you to lose your home.

Assuming you have insurance and once you have obtained a detailed estimate from your insurance adjuster or contractor, it is imperative that you review every line item to be sure nothing is missing or undervalued before the claim is settled.  In situations where a disaster has completely destroyed a home, you will need to recall and point out what some of the finishing elements were that may no longer be visible.  These elements include things like cabinetry, hardware, countertops, window treatments, wallpaper, flooring, light fixtures, alarm systems, water filters, custom closet systems, railings, appliances, etc.  Qualified contractors should be able to accurately estimate the basic building components of your home on their own for elements like concrete, framing, insulation, drywall, stucco, plumbing, electrical, roofing, etc.

No one knows or has the detail of what your home looked like prior to the disaster better than you, so your involvement in this process is critical.

 Here are a few problems that can result from getting an incomplete or undervalued estimate:

  1. You may not get enough money from your insurance company to cover the costs to repair or rebuild your home to the condition it was in prior to the disaster.  The materials used for the repairs could be of far less quality than what your home had prior to the disaster.
  2. Items needing to be repaired or replaced could be missed or undervalued, which could result in you having to pay for work out-of-pocket and/or incur costly change orders.
  3. If the contractor performing the work gets part way through the work and later realizes that there isn’t enough money to complete the work and make a profit, they may abandon the job.  This can lead to any material suppliers that may have not been paid by the contractor to place mechanics’ liens on your property and possibly sue you for payment.
  4. You may be forced to do some of the work yourself.
  5. You may be forced to get a loan to complete the work.
  6. If the description of what is to be done is not clear, you could become embroiled in a conflict with the contractor which could cause strained relationships and lengthy delays.

This is only a partial list of potential problems that can arise from not getting an accurate estimate and scope of work.  Before you sign a contract with a contractor to get repair work started, be sure to go over the scope of work line-by-line, very carefully to be sure everything you expect is included in the contract price.  Remember, if what you think you are getting is not clearly written in the scope of work or estimate attached to the contract, you may not get what you bargained for.