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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Do your homework before signing a contract for home repairs

STILLWATER, Okla. – For many Oklahomans, the road to recovery following a natural disaster can be a long one.
Do your homework before signing a contract for home repairs

Research contractors being considered for home repair/rebuilding following a tornado or other natural disaster. (Shutterstock)

Residents in the Elk City area are the latest victims of Mother Nature’s wrath, and cleanup efforts and recovery already are underway after the storm heavily damaged many homes and businesses.

Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist, said one key to picking up the pieces is finding the right contractor.

Unfortunately, when disaster strikes, some fly-by-night companies spring up in affected areas and do little more than take advantage of consumers when they are in the most need of help.

“Oklahomans who have suffered damage are feeling a sense of urgency and need help right away,” Peek said. “Although you want to have the work done as quickly as possible, take the time to seek out a contractor with a proven track record. Ask for references and check them out. Check with the Better Business Bureau about any potential contractors before signing a contract.”

Something else to check into is the contractor’s insurance. Make sure the contractor carries general liability insurance and workers’ compensation. This will protect the homeowner from liability should an accident occur on the property.

Peek also recommended getting a written estimate from several different contractors. This helps the homeowner compare services and prices before making a final decision. Keep in mind, however, some contractors charge a fee for a written estimate.

“Once you decide on a contractor, get a written contract. The contract should spell out all aspects of the work, including what work is to be completed, who is paying for materials and who is responsible for applying for necessary permits or licenses,” she said. “It’s a good idea to have an attorney review the contract, especially if substantial costs are involved. Homeowners also should keep a copy of the contract for their own records. Don’t sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces.”

Be wary of companies offering discounts if you pay up front in cash. The best way to protect yourself is to write a check to the contracting company. Never pay the full amount up front. A reasonable down payment is around 30 percent of the cost of the total project, which is usually paid at the time of delivery of materials. The final payment should be made only after the work is completed to your satisfaction.

If a homeowner finds it necessary to cancel a contract, do so in the proper manner. A cancellation should take place within three days of signing the contract. Be sure to follow the cancellation procedures outlined in the contract. The cancellation notification should be sent by registered mail with a return receipt to be signed by the contractor.

“Do your homework and check into any company you’re considering doing repairs on your home,” Peek said. “Although your main objective is to get back into your home as quickly as possible, make sure you are dealing with a reputable company.”

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Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
159 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)|
trisha.gedon@okstate.edu

 

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078
405.744.5000