Superstorm Sandy left a lot of American homeowners with the unfortunate realization of how unprepared they were for a disaster. But if there is something positive to get out of an event like this, it’s how to best prepare yourself and your home before disaster strikes again. As many as 20,000 homes were damaged in New York City alone, while entire communities along the East Coast are beginning what will be a long road to recovery.
In the wake of Sandy’s aftermath, there’s been a lot of talk about disaster preparation – what could people have done differently? But when it comes to prep and plans, you also have to think about the rebuilding process, because in some circumstances, no matter how much you prepare, you won’t escape the damage. Some disasters are just so destructive that no amount of preparation will totally secure your home.
And just to add insult to injury, disasters bring all sorts of scammers out of the woodwork, and home improvement scams are now one of the top five fastest-growing complaints among American consumers. After suffering through a disaster, Americans are looking for help, so they’re most vulnerable to scams.
So we asked Phae Howard, Executive Director of The National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud, to give us some tips on what to know before a disaster hits, how to choose a safe contractor for the repairs, and how to make sure you don’t get ripped off!
Here are a few things Phae says all homeowners should know:
Before disaster hits:
Talk with your insurance company. Know what your policy covers.
Vet a contractor before you need him.
Take pictures of your home.
Have an inventory of your possessions.
After a Disaster:
Don’t be rushed. This is where a lot of people get into trouble.
Don’t sign anything you don’t understand.
Make sure he specializes in what you need done.
Get the contractor’s information, verify it.
Be cautious with any contractor who comes to your door.
Make sure you agree to a start, and END date.
Keep a daily log of the project, including weather. Take pictures throughout.
Make sure all subcontractors are properly licensed and insured.
How to Choose a Contractor:
When possible, choose local contractors
Choose those licensed by Your State
In disaster, those registered with your city/county