Electrical advice for homeowners recovering from Hurricane Sandy
Many homeowners on the East Coast still find themselves without power in the wake of last month’s super storm, Hurricane Sandy, and its accompanying winter nor’easter.
Bryan Amato is general manager of Mister Sparky, an electrical company in Metairie, La., which has serviced customers following the wrath of a killer storm. The Angie’s List 2011 Super Service Award winning company still works on projects related to 2005’s devastating Hurricane Katrina.
Following these and any big storms, here's how to handle the diciest of recovery problems: your home’s electrical system.
• “Only deal with established businesses." Amato says to expect literally thousands of “disaster response teams” to descend on the area. “Avoid them all.” In fact, these storm chasers have already begun trawling door-to-door for customers. In the first few days after Hurricane Sandy hit, hundreds of domain names were registered related to the super storm.
• “Always get a price upfront.” And if a stranger comes to your door offering to repair your electricity for cash up front, just say no. Chances are, he or she will take your money and disappear, leaving you with little or no recourse. Stories still abound from homeowners who’ve been ripped off in this manner.
• “Always get a certificate of insurance.” But Amato cautions, “If a contractor hands you a certificate of insurance, it’s more than likely a forgery.” Instead, you should contact the contractor’s insurance company and get it directly. Use Angie's List License Check tool to verify a contractor's license in your state. Many shady contractors can easily forge a license; others may not be licensed in your state. He also adds, “Insist on inspections by the local inspecting authority.” If you "try and fly under the radar," you're just aiding shady contractors.
• “Electrical work will generally (occur in) one of two ways.” You're either facing an immediate repair or, in the case of extensive damage, a “rough in” and a “trim out” phase. Amato suggests you shouldn't pay more than 70 percent of the quoted price for the rough in phase. He further recommends withholding at least half of the rough in payment until the company provides proof of an approved rough in inspection.
• “Get references.” Check with Angie’s List and licensing boards to validate the contractor’s credentials and reputation.
Mister Sparky owner Ted Kampen relates lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.
• “If a contractor doesn’t show up when scheduled, fire them and move on.” Amato recommends adding language in the agreement to establish the your right to do this and include liquidated damages if the contractor doesn't complete the project in the time frame both of you agree upon. "Be the squeaky wheel."
• “Work will occur in three phases.” In the first phase, homeowners will set up and pay for projects with money they already have on hand. “That should be occurring now,” says Amato. The second phase of work will begin once insurance companies settle claims and start getting checks to homeowners. The last phase will occur in a few years “when federal money comes into play.”
•“Above all, have patience.” Amato counsels, “I can assure you an insured customer will have a better home once this is finished provided wise decisions are made and the process isn’t needlessly rushed. Use your head and not your emotions. Don’t worry about how quickly your neighbor gets back in their home. Get yours done right.”