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FOX 8 DEFENDERS: Helpful tips for hiring contractors for anyone with Ida storm damage

Whether you’ve got minimal damage or a home that is uninhabitable, so many in Southeast Louisiana are desperate to repair or rebuild. Before hiring someone, there are some important steps you should take that could save you time and money.
Damage left by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana
Damage left by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana(WBRC)
Updated: Sep. 16, 2021 at 9:15 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - From the Northshore, Southshore, River Parishes, Bayou region, and beyond, residents across Southeast Louisiana have their work cut out for them whether it’s patching a roof, replacing windows, or an entire gut and rebuild job.

“You’ve got 25 parishes that are in this damage situation; some more than others obviously,” explained longtime homebuilder Frank Morse, who serves on the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors.

He says when you’re ready to hire someone, don’t just go out on a limb and hope for the best. “You know not just taking a number that’s just walked in and stuffed in your hand and signing a contract.. that’s not the right way to do it. I think we should have learned that in Katrina for the most part,” Morse said.

He says you’ve got to get the right people in place at a time when, because of COVID, labor is already limited across the country. It may include relying on workers from out of town. “If we don’t rely on some people coming in and allowing them to either get licensed properly, which they need to do before they start work, especially over $7,500, then they’re gonna be able to assist us in getting our communities back together,” Morse said.

Step #1: Morse says to make sure your contractor is licensed to do work in Louisiana.

You can search the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors’ online database or download the “LA Contractor” app. Look for the yellow hard hat with a hammer on it. There you can search by contractor name, and if they’re licensed, it’ll tell you which type of license, when it was issued, if it’s still effective, and when it expires.

Morse says if the cost of labor and materials is between $7,500 and $75,000, the state requires a home improvement license. Anything above $75,000 you would need a residential construction license, or a commercial one.

“We are not the venue for workmanship. We’re the venue for fraud. We’re the venue for taking monies and not doing what they were supposed to do and we’re the venue for making sure that what they did is per the licensing rule,” he explained.

Step #2: Ask for a copy of your contractor’s insurance policy.

And take that a step further and call the insurance company and verify the policy is current. “If somebody’s doing interior work, and they go through the floor and they cut their leg off, that homeowner’s gonna be responsible if they don’t have insurance because everybody’s gonna be in a lawsuit,” Morse said.

That step is especially critical for roofing jobs. Morse estimates more than 40,000 roofs are damaged because of Ida.

Step #3: make sure the contractor has a strong track record.

You’ll want to get referrals and reach out to those people. It could be tough to get multiple bids considering the widespread damage and need for repairs.

Step #4: Get the scope of your project in writing.

Make sure there are allowances for materials, from light fixtures to plumbing, and don’t pay in full upfront. Depending on the size of your job, your deposit might vary.

“On a smaller job, they’ll usually write a contract with a 50% deposit and a 50% upon completion. In a sense of that, then obviously you have to put in there to make sure that there’s specific times for delay, what that delay maybe, like we may not be able to get supplies, and that’s a legitimate delay, but a delay just because he wants to work on 15 other jobs, and doesn’t wanna come back to you because he’s got you where he needs you for the moment, that’s not a good one,” Morse explained.

Step #5: Get a copy of their driver’s license or an ID.

“I would even say that if they could take a picture of the license plate of the vehicle and a picture of the side of the vehicle. If it’s got some nomenclature on it for a company,” Morse said. In the event you’re the victim of fraud, it will help law enforcement follow-up.

Naturally, people are going to want to move fast, but in many cases, Morse says you may not be able to. A lot of materials, like roofing shingles, for example, are in limited supply.

“We only have roughly three colors of shingles available right now out of seven, and that’s because of Covid that shut down the plants prior to.. that’s because the delivery of materials which is not happening because of lack of drivers,” he said.

Morse told us 16 Licensing Board employees cover Louisiana’s 64 parishes, and some have already begun walking neighborhoods, checking to see who’s licensed. Still, Ida victims should make sure they’re protected and follow these steps.

The Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors doesn’t issue emergency or temporary licenses but says it will expedite processing applications.

If you’ve got a consumer issue you’d like us to look into, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women or fill out our online complaint form.

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