When disaster strikes, a step-by-step guide to help you cope with property damage and lead you through the recovery process.
In the aftermath of the fires and tragic loss of homes and property suffered by members of our community, CWHBA would like to act as a resource to families who will be working to find reputable contractors as they move to repair their fire/smoke damage, or rebuild their homes. We believe it is important to educate affected home owners about the local services provided by our members, and give them a convenient way to locate local contractors for their needs as they move forward with their lives after the fires.
The recent fire has caused major damage in this area.
As you begin repairing your home please consider some important advice...
Before you hire a Contractor... Do some home work! Find out if the firm has a permanent business address and good reputation. Insist on a complete and clearly written contract. Do ask for references...Do Not (REPEAT) Do Not pay cash up front. Call the Central Washington Home Builders Association and ask for a list of reliable Contractors..
No one could prevent the fire, but a fly by night contractor is one disaster you can prevent! Call 509-454-4006 or 800-492-9422.
Once the ash settles, it’s important for you to be strong and lead your family through this difficult time. Seek out help and support from friends and neighbors as soon as possible. Don’t make rash decisions under pressure.
Contact Your Insurance Agent BEFORE You Hire any Contractors. Most agencies have a claims center that can be contacted by phone 24/7/365. Seek out their help for next steps – especially if professional help is needed for clean-up and repairs. NEVER sign a contract for work from a company that approached you after the incident without checking their references. Also, be sure you’re dealing with a local, licensed, reputable business with the proper business insurance coverage versus the first person that approaches you and offers to help. Be very careful about paying any up-front deposits until you’re 100% sure the decision to move forward with the selected contractor is the right one. The Central Washington Home Builders Association is your first response resource for selecting contractors.
Secure Your Property & Recover/Remove Valuables. Even in these dark times, looters can make things worse. If necessary, consider renting a storage unit nearby or have a mobile storage unit brought to your site that you can load. If the damage is too great or the area is too dangerous, seek the help of select professionals through recommendations from your insurance agent, family members, friends, etc. Never work with anyone that tries to pressure you or wants to be paid a big percentage up-front.
Prevent Further Damage. It’s very important for you not to ignore structures that are repairable. Make a detailed sweep of your home/property to make sure you can prevent additional damage from exposure to the elements. Consult with your insurance agent to see if they have specific recommendations or procedures. Tarps, ropes, plywood and other items you may need can be purchased quickly at most discount and hardware stores. Again, it’s very important to be safe and consider professional help if it’s needed at this time.
Make Informed Decisions Related to Repair Contracts & Costs. Always be cautious when you’re vulnerable and upset. Don’t let the clock or someone outside your circle of family and friends compromise your financial future. Contact the Central Washington Home Builders Association for a list of contractors and make sure they understand how to work with your insurance company related to timelines, payments, etc. Also, don’t be surprised if your basic homeowners insurance isn’t enough to cover the actual costs for certain major repairs. If you find yourself unable to make your home identical to what it looked like before the damage, set a dollar amount to spend on quality repairs that make sense for your financial situation. Doing so may require some tough design and style decisions. However, don’t just choose the contractor based on lowest price alone. Be comfortable with the entire scenario being proposed by the contractor you plan to hire.
Begin the Repairs. By now, many crazy things have probably happened. For major repairs, it’s possible that weeks or even months have gone by. Continue to be strong and work with reputable people. When you’re working with hired contractors, you can do your part to keep the work flowing by making selections in a timely manner for things like windows, doors, shingles, siding, cabinets, plumbing/lighting fixtures, flooring, etc. For more information on the building or remodeling process, call the Central Washington Home Builders Association or send us a message.
Although each insurance company's claims processes are different, the goals are always the same. That is, to collect the necessary information from you so that your claim can be processed fairly and quickly. A contractor will work on your behalf and with the insurance industry to help you navigate through the process easily. Your insurance company may have a preferred list of contractors, who are usually pre-qualified by your company. Remember, however, you may select any contractor you wish to do the repairs.
1. The first step is to submit your claim to either your agent or directly to a representative of your insurance company. With most companies, this may be done by telephone or by the internet. You can always talk to the agent who sold you your homeowners' policy for guidance or they may be able to submit a claim on your behalf. To file a claim yourself, look on your insurance policy for a phone number.
2. Once a claim has been filed, a claim number will be assigned. In most cases they will also assign an adjuster. While insurance companies differ in their claims process, the following basically holds true. Some companies have field adjusters who will visit your home to inspect the damage; others may use independent adjusting firms. Sometimes it may be a telephone adjuster, who relies on contractor estimates to settle a claim.
3. For emergency situations, it is essential to have an experienced restoration contractor at the initial inspection. The contractor can be invaluable in being able to stop the damage from getting worse. Knowing your policy and claim numbers and deductible amounts will help expedite the process.
4. Understand your insurance policy. One of the most important things to understand about your policy is that it is your obligation to prevent any further damage from occurring. Therefore, report your claim promptly, contact an experienced restoration contractor, and keep track of expenditures. In order to ensure payment for damages incurred communications with your agent and/or adjuster is key.
5. A qualified restoration contractor who understands the claims process and can prepare a thoroughly detailed computerized estimate is vital. This helps to expedite the approval process thereby getting the repair work completed that much sooner.
6. Several factors can influence the time it will take for your claim to be settled. Depending upon severity of loss, contractor availability and insurance company claims handling processes, your claim may take anywhere from a few days to several months. In emergency situations, some work can begin while estimating is in progress. A contractor will help reduce the time it takes to settle your claim and begin the repair process.
7. A contractor can expedite the claim process by utilizing third-party pricing, which is widely accepted by the insurance industry. This also ensures that you receive an accurate assessment and you are fairly compensated for your loss.
8. In many cases your insurance company will pay the restoration contractor directly for the work. If your name is included on the insurance check, you will be asked to endorse the check over to the contractor when the work is complete and you are satisfied with the outcome. In some cases your mortgage company may also be included on the insurance check. If so, your assistance will be required in the process of getting an endorsement from your mortgage company. You may be responsible for paying a deductible, which in most cases will be due to the contractor at the time work is started. The amount of your deductible can be found on your insurance policy.
Many insurance companies will deduct for depreciation and then pay that depreciation once the work is completed; their way to make sure the work gets done.
Also many adjusters will say they will pay for x square feet or lineal feet of something when the entire room needs to be done so the bid needs to be adjusted. Remember their job is to save the company as much money as they can, a quality restoration contractor can make a huge difference in the amount of money paid in the claim and make sure the home is at the least the same or better than before the loss. The time to negotiate is up front. If you find issues during the restoration the claim can be amended then as well.
In this traumatic situation, you just want you home back to the way it was. Hiring a professional contractor will help in this process. A contractor can help you with:
Ask to see their pocket-size registration card, and check its expiration date.
You can do this by calling the State of Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries at
1-800-647-0982 or visit the L&I website at https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/bbip/. Ask if there have been any complaints about the contractor, and if any, the status.
Good communications with your contractor is vital to a successful project, as it helps clarify exactly what you want done. Get the answers that satisfy your needs; after all it is your home!
Check references thoroughly. Visit past work done by your contractor, and ask the homeowners for their opinions on the work done.
Bids that are noticeably lower that all others should be questioned. The difference may be in the quality of the materials used, experience of the crew doing the actual work, something is missing on the bid requirements, or it can be an indication that the contractor is not covering all the legitimate business costs. Don’t automatically disregard a high or low bid, ask questions!
Be sure that it includes price, payment terms, sales tax, permit fees (if applicable), the specific work to be performed, materials to be used, warranties and payment schedules. It is also a good idea to include change-order processes, final review and sign-off procedures and cleanup. Put all change-orders in writing and ask questions as work progresses. Avoid verbal contracts, and be very cautious about paying for incomplete work.
Make sure permits are in place and inspections are made as the work progresses. Make sure the name of your contractor appears on the permit.
Make frequent inspections and consult your local building department about required permits.
There are thousands of legitimate, ethical contractors in business around the country. Unfortunately, there are also scam artists looking to cheat you out of your money who pose as legitimate contractors. These "fly-by-night" operators often show up in communities impacted by natural disasters to try to scam distressed home owners into paying for shoddy repairs or work that they will never show up to perform.
Here are some warning signs to look out for:
Doesn't have license and insurance. All professional contractors should be insured and able to show their certificate proving such insurance. Although all states do not require licensing, contractors in states requiring licenses should have it and be able to provide a copy.
Doesn't write contracts. Professionals have clear contracts that outline the job, process, the cost, and helps clarify how problems will be managed. If you don't have a contract, you are not protected when something goes wrong. Don't hire anyone who tells you a contract "won't be necessary."
Requires cash or payment in full before starting the job. Shady contractors demand cash and then run with the money. Many home owners have been stranded by paying in full up front. A deposit towards materials is common, but only pay it once you have a contract signed by both you and the contractor. It's also suspect you're asked to pay cash to a salesperson instead of a check or money order to a company.
Vastly underbids all other contractors. They may have the best price, but that doesn't guarantee the best work. Such contractors may cut costs on quality, which can end up costing you more when you have to have the substandard work redone.
Offers "special" pricing. If you're told you’ve been “chosen” as a demonstration project at a special, low price, or you’re told a low price is good only if you sign a contract today.
Cannot provide customer references. Professional contractors should have current references they can provide from current and past clients — and you should be able to reach those references, not just an answering machine.
Difficulty contacting the contractor. Professionals have a physical office, mailing address, phone, and email. They should respond to your queries in a timely manner. Make sure you can verify the contractor’s business address.
Your best bet is to take your time, do your research and choose someone you feel completely comfortable with. Contact Central Washington Home Builders Association for a list of reputable contractors in our community at www.cwhba.org. The state of Washington requires builders, remodelers, electricians and plumbers to be Registered. You can verify their Registration through the Departmentof Labor and Industries www.lni.wa.gov, then “search by name or license type” under Contractors. Make sure they don't have a record of consumer complaints lodged with them by contacting the Better Business Bureau.
"We are longtime members and the R.O.I.I. program certainly warrants our membership! We are very appreciative of the program." - Lynn Van Auken, Yakima Watermill, Inc