On a drive around the valley it is amazing to see all the flood cleanup work being done. So many wonderful people have come into our area to help in so many ways. But among the multitudes of good people are a few bad apples. Be careful and don't be taken in by "storm chaser" contractors if your home was damaged in a disaster.
Home repair and improvement scams flourish after natural disasters. Unscrupulous, unlicensed and unqualified out-of-state contractors are all too eager to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners who just want to start putting their lives back together.
Here is advice from the North Dakota attorney general on how to guard against those who would take advantage of you:
Lori Scharmer is an Extension Agent for the NDSU Extension Service in Ward County.
Notice the warning signs: Contractors who are driving unmarked vehicles and/or they use high-pressure sales tactics; claim they can offer great prices because they have leftover materials from a previous job; offer discounts for finding other customers; require nonrefundable advance payments, large payments or full payment before the work is done; and refuse to give written estimates, contracts, references and proof of liability insurance or bonding, or show required licenses.
Consider using local, reputable contractors. Check with the secretary of state's licensing division by going to its Web site at (www.nd.gov/sos) or calling (800) 352-0867, ext. 83665, to see if the contractor is licensed. Call North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance at (800) 777-5033 and Job Service at (800) 247-0981 to see if the contractor is registered.
Research your recovery project so you understand what the job involves.
Case managers available to help with flood recovery
Recovery from disaster is difficult and complicated. A case manager can guide flood survivors on this journey. Case managers are now available to assist survivors of Minot Flood 2011 through the Resource Agencies Flood Team, or RAFT.
The RAFT is a cooperative effort of faith-based and community-based agencies to assist disaster victims as they recover. Each RAFT applicant works with a case manager to learn about pertinent services and resources and to develop a recovery plan. If there are unmet needs, the case manager presents individual cases to an unmet needs committee or can access donations collected by a long-term recovery committee.
RAFT welcomes any flood survivors to apply for its services. There is no cost to the applicant. RAFT application packets can be downloaded as a .pdf form from the following Web sites:
Copies of the RAFT Application can be picked up at the following locations:
NDSU Extension Service, Ward County Courthouse
Vincent United Methodist Church
Community Action (Jim Hill Middle School)
North Central Human Service Center
Ward County Social Services Assistance
While enlisting a case manager is not required, having one is a great way to move along the road to recovery. Case managers help disaster survivors help themselves and access resources for which flood survivors may be eligible. A case manager will advocate for applicants, provide necessary information, and help them avoid pitfalls and complications. He or she often has the most updated information regarding resources available.
Once the completed application has been received, a case manager will be assigned and the applicant will be contacted. RAFT has been a successful ecumenical partnership in long-term disaster case management in North Dakota since 1997 and has assisted in many North Dakota disasters since that time.
Ward County Extension Service
Get bids from several contractors.
Get the bids in writing. Never accept a verbal estimate.
Prepare a detailed list of work that needs to be done and the materials required before meeting with each contractor about the bid.
You also need to ask the contractor the following questions:
Is the business locally owned?
How long has the business been established in the community?
What is its permanent business address?
Does the contractor have a driver's license? Obtain the name, address and driver's license number for future reference.
Will the contractor provide references? Get a list of names and phone numbers and call them.
Once you have bids, check them carefully. This is just the beginning of the negotiations.
After selecting a contractor, get a contract in writing. Make sure the contract has full contact information for the contractor; the dates for work to begin; the project completion date; type, grade and quality of materials to be used; cost; any subcontractors' names; guarantees; warranties; and who is obtaining the necessary licenses and permits (homeowner or the contractor).