Federal and state recovery specialists urge Rhode Islanders affected by Hurricane Sandy to be careful and smart about rebuilding. Be careful about hiring contractors and be smart about improving your property's resistance to future floods. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency offer the following tips on rebuilding and working with contractors.
Here are some recommendations to reduce the amount of damage from a future flood. Details are in brochures from FEMA that are available online at http://go.usa.gov/gwAh . • Rebuild with materials that resist flood damage: Building materials are considered flood resistant if they can withstand direct contact with flood waters for at least 72 hours without being significantly damaged. • Elevate or relocate electrical system components, the HVAC system and appliances. Flood waters quickly destroy electrical elements. Panel boxes, circuit breakers, wall switches, wall outlets, the HVAC system and appliances should be located at least one foot above the base flood elevation or even moved to a higher floor for safety. • Install a sewer backflow valve: Flooded sewer systems can force sewage back into the home. This complicates cleanup and, more importantly, creates a health hazard. Backflow valves installed inside or outside the structure will stop sewage backup. • Anchor fuel tanks. Fuel tanks, either inside or outside the home, should be anchored to prevent them from overturning or breaking loose in a flood. Metal straps and bolts should be non-corrosive and wood structural supports should be pressure treated.
Most of these modifications should be carried out only by a professional contractor licensed to work in your area. When hiring contractors to repair homes damaged by flooding, be cautious to avoid being taken advantage of by scam artists. • Get a written estimate. Compare services and prices before choosing a contractor. • Check references. • Use a licensed, insured contractor. Get proof--see the card issued by the Rhode Island Contractors Registration and Licensing Board that the contractor is registered and insured. If the contractor is not insured, the homeowner may be liable for accidents that occur on the property. • Require a written contract. Have a lawyer review the contract if substantial costs are involved. • Get guarantees in writing. • Make final payments only when work is satisfactorily completed. • Pay by credit card, if possible, or by check. Avoid on-the-spot cash payments. A reasonable down payment is 30 percent of the total cost of the project, to be paid upon first delivery of materials. • If necessary, cancel a contract. Be sure to follow the procedures for cancellation that are set out in the contract. Send the notification by registered mail with a return receipt to be signed by the contractor.
You can find out if a contractor is licensed and insured and get more information about hiring contractors on the web site of the State of Rhode Island's Contractors Registration and Licensing Board, www.crb.ri.gov/ adr_order=145&url=aHR0cDovL3d3dy5jcmIucmkuZ292Lw%3D%3D> . If you suspect contractor fraud, contact the Rhode Island Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit at 401-274-4400.