NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As Arkansas communities begin to rebuild after the widespread damage caused by tornadoes last week, dishonest contractors could see this as an opportunity to scam and take advantage of vulnerable customers.
To help Arkansans recover, the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board (ACLB) provided tips for finding and hiring legitimate, licensed contractors to repair the damage the storms wreaked:
ACLB recommends that homeowners plan projects in advance, saying every project is different and some may require a specialty licensed contractor. Knowing what needs to be done and which type of contractor is needed to complete the specific project is necessary before selecting a contractor.
Once the project is planned, the board advises homeowners to get at least two to three estimates from different contractors. When comparing these estimates, don’t just look at the bottom-line cost, but check that each estimate includes the total price, specific materials the contractor plans on using, a timeline for the expected completion of the project and a timetable for expected payments.
A legitimate and trustworthy contractor should have a well-stocked portfolio and multiple references. Another critical tip ACLB gives homeowners is to talk to at least three of the contractor’s references. When speaking to the references, ask if they were satisfied with the contractor’s work and if the contractor kept to the schedule and contract terms.
According to the board, homeowners should also ask their contractor for a written contract detailing the description of the work being done, the materials being used and the equipment being installed. Look for a schedule of payments and a timeline for the completion of the project, and make sure any changes that occur are documented in writing as well.
A common indicator of a scammer is if they ask you to pay money upfront. ACLB says a licensed contractor should not ask homeowners to make a payment for the materials needed to begin the project or require final payment before the project is complete. The board also recommends avoiding cash payments.
Finally, the board notes how important it is to check in on the project regularly and ensure progress is being made. Homeowners should keep a file of all papers and documents, including the contract, any documented change to the contract, bills and invoices and pictures of the build.
Don’t be afraid to contact the State Licensing Board or the city where the contractor is working to verify that the contractor has the necessary licenses and permits. Visit the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board’s website to find more information.