FOX 8 Defenders: Tips to avoid bogus contractors in wake of EF3 tornado

FOX 8 Defenders: Tips to avoid bogus contractors in wake of EF3 tornado

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Just days after the storm, a sea of utility trucks and crews work to restore power on Springwood Street off Read Boulevard in New Orleans East. It was a welcome sight for Ray Tippen, who now looks to help his parents rebuild.

"Both of my parents are in their 80s," Tippen said. While he explained that there's no damage inside the house, a before and after image shows how the historic EF-3 tornado changed their lives from one minute to the next.

The roof needs repair, the gutters peeled from the structure and only a shell of a shed is left. Their neighbors suffered even more damage. An insurance adjuster showed up to survey the damage while we were in the neighborhood, the first step in rebuilding.

"There are storm chasers. They show up at every catastrophe. All you have to do is watch the news. There's somebody taking the money and running," Roy Olsen said.

Olsen is a general contractor and a past president of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans. Olsen stressed it's also important to really examine who you're going to hire to rebuild your house - for many people, their biggest investment. First on the rebuilding checklist, Olsen says it's important to document your damage with pictures, and he recommends property owners interview three contractors to make repairs.

"Don't jump at the first contractor that shows up. Do your homework, make sure he's licensed and insured," Olsen said.

Licensed contractors will be registered with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, where licensing information is an easy search online.

"Never start a job or sign a contract without getting the insurance paperwork from the insurance company or a broker," according to Olsen.

Experts say it's a good idea to double check what the builder may tell you or show you. Call their insurance company to check their policy is paid through the time they will be working on your home.

The HBA also encourages you get a contract.

"It protects you because it spells out the work that needs to be done, and how much it's gonna cost. Then also, it should include a time period when the work should be done by," Olsen explained.

"We also go around to see what kind of work they did," Tippen told us.

Olsen agreed references are smart. Another tip when it comes to payment, Olsen says you never want to pay more than 25 percent of the job up front.  It's also a good idea to have the remaining schedule of payments laid out in your contract, and don't make that final payment until building inspections are complete.

Olsen advises tornado victims to hire a general contractor, describing that role as the conductor of the orchestra.

"He's gonna make sure that the right people come in. He is responsible to make sure that the subcontractors are qualified and licensed, so your electrical work is being done correctly, your plumbing is done correctly. You're gonna meet the requirements of the building officials and the codes, and they're gonna get inspected," Olsen said.

Like so many, the Tippen family is anxious to repair their home, but Olsen warns, with so many homes in the same situation, rebuilding likely won't happen fast. Patience and due diligence, he said, are well worth it.

This advice goes for anyone looking to repair or build a home, not just tornado victims. The HBA of Greater New Orleans has an online storm recovery resource page and a list of dozens of contractors and suppliers who are available to work in flood-affected areas.

The FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women also field consumer complaints at 1-877-670-6397 or you can fill out an online complaint form.

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