Whether Irma was your first hurricane or your fifth, the experience is one you will long remember. Outside of the welfare of your family, your first priority will be to take care of any property damage the storm might have caused and make sure your home is safe and secure again.

After a natural disaster strikes, homeowners seek the help of local contractors whose schedules quickly fill up. This means you might have to turn to workers who come in from out of town or even out of state. You will probably have concerns about skill level, experience, reliability and fees for proposed work. How can you mitigate the risks involved with hiring someone you do not know?

Get it in writing

Perhaps you have developed a comfort level with a local firm, in which case you might be fine with a verbal agreement. However, when you are about to hire someone new, get both the proposal and the final agreement in writing. 

Red flags

How does your contractor request payment? If he or she wants a large down payment, your antennae should go up. You should also become suspicious if the contractor makes repeated requests for money, especially when the project is just starting, or if the contractor requests payment in cash. Further, make sure you are dealing with someone who understands the importance of having building permits in accordance with the Florida Building Code. With few exceptions, permits are essential.

Exercise due diligence

Before you hire anyone, make sure you check with your insurance company to find out what your policy does and does not cover. Your best approach to hiring is to obtain three estimates for the work that needs doing. Ask each contractor for references and request a Certificate of Competency card. Compare this with the individual’s driver’s license; the names should match. Go online to check on his or her contractor’s license, making sure it has never been revoked or suspended. The written contract should set out the specifics of the work involved, including time frames. If you have any doubts about what the contract covers or whether it is enough to keep the contractor honest and on the job, seeking a legal opinion before work begins is an option.