We just received this important information, below, from the Texas Association of Builders for anyone about to hire a contractor to rebuild their fire damaged home in Texas. The facts to note are that a contractor cannot, under Texas law, move into an area where they have not previously held a business address and ask for payment to begin work on a fire-damaged home. A contractor CAN begin work on the home, without taking any payment. However, after doing some work on the home, that contractor CANNOT then take a payment disproportionate to the work performed. Why? These new regulations are designed to protect people from those predators who would try to take advantage of their unfortunate situation. It is likely that these regulations were passed as a direct result of someone’s ill-fated experience with a bad contractor. After reading about this, it brought to mind some simple guidelines that might just help someone who is trying to deal with the horrible feeling of loss and AVOID having to deal with a bad contractor, too.
- Don’t use a contractor who just moved into town. Even though it might be fine, the odds are against you. There are plenty of established contractors who can handle the situation, and they probably already have contacts in the permitting offices as well as knowledge of local building codes.
- Ask around for a contractor who someone knows personally. A personal recommendation is as good as it gets and, let’s face it, trust is the most important issue when hiring a contractor.
- If you can’t find anyone with personal experience with a contractor, ask a local Realtor. Explain to them that you are particularly interested in someone trustworthy. The last thing you need is a fast-talking, slick so-and-so (that’s Texas-speak for all you out-of-towners).
- When you do interview contractors, ask for references that you can call. This is so important! You really must call people and ask them about their experience with the contractor! No one likes to do it, but it can mean all the difference between a good experience and a bad one.
- Don’t overpay a contractor. Ask for a draw schedule (aka, payment schedule) in advance and look it over carefully to insure there aren’t disproportionate expenses upfront. Never pay for work that hasn’t been completed…and I mean completely completed! There are so many sad stories about contractors who left town or declared bankruptcy due to money mismanagement, and there is no reciprocity for those individuals left holding the bag.
All contractors are not bad. It is an industry, however, where greed can lead to bad behavior. It is up to you to do your homework and find someone trustworthy to get you through the next several months. A good contractor can not only get you through but can lead you through the dark times and into a much better place than you were before. That is my hope for all the Texas fire victims!
From the Texas Association of Builders, Sept. 8, 2011:
With the devastating wild fires across the state, it is important that builders and remodelers be aware of HB 1711, which became effective September 1 of this year. The bill applies to contractors who remove, clean, sanitize, demolish, reconstruct, or otherwise treat improvements to real property as a result of damage or destruction to that property caused by a natural disaster. Specifically, it requires that a “disaster remediation” contract must be in writing and prohibits a “disaster remediation contractor” from requiring payment prior to beginning work or charging a partial payment in any amount disproportionate to the work that has been performed. However, the statute exempts contractors that have held a business address for at least one year in the county or adjacent county where the work occurs. As these tragic fires are put under control and the rebuilding begins, members must be aware of the new statutory contract limits on those who have not had a business address for at least one year in the county or adjoining county of the disaster. Ignoring these requirements could result in a deceptive trade practices violation.