To help the rebuilding and repair process go as smoothly as possible, follow these suggestions:
If you were satisfied with past work done by local licensed contractors, try them first. If they cannot help you, ask for recommendations. If you must hire a contractor you don't know, talk to several before signing anything.
Check the contractor's reputation. The local Better Business Bureau, homebuilders association or building trades council are sources of information. Ask if the contractor you are considering has unanswered complaints filed against him or her.
Ask for references. Contractors should be willing to provide names of previous customers. Contact some of those customers and ask if they would hire the contractor again.
Ask for proof of insurance. Be sure the contractor has disability and workers' compensation insurance. If not, you may be liable for accidents on your property.
Ask for a written estimate. Make sure it includes everything you expect the contractor to do. Also, find out up front if the contractor will charge a fee for that estimate.
Ask for a contract. The contract should clearly state all work, costs and the payment schedule. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces. It may be worthwhile to have a lawyer look at the contract before signing it.
Ask for guarantees in writing. If the contractor provides guarantees, he or she should clearly state what is covered by that guarantee, who is responsible for fulfilling the guarantee (dealer, contractor or manufacturer) and how long the guarantee is valid.
Get a copy of the final, signed contract, and read it over carefully before signing. Once signed, the contract is binding on both you and the contractor.
Do not sign off before the job is finished. Make sure the work is done to your satisfaction before signing completion papers or making a final payment. A reputable contractor will not threaten you or pressure to sign if the job is not finished properly.
Consumers who do have problems with a contractor or who have been victims of fraud are urged to call the Missouri Attorney General's Hotline, Consumer Fraud and Price Gouging Division, at 800-392-8222.