By Phil Crone
The Dallas Builders Association extends its heartfelt thoughts to our friends on the coast who are suffering from the wrath and devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. To help those affected, please text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the Red Cross or visit redcross.org.
While storms of this magnitude bring out the best in most, they can bring out the worst in others. Often this comes in the form of unscrupulous contractors from out of state who follow major weather events looking for work. Sadly, the damage left in their wake is usually financial, adding to the suffering of storm victims.
Please use the information below as a guide on how to rebuild with confidence. Additional information is available through the Texas Association of Builders and the Greater Houston Builders Association.
It is human nature to want to return yourself to normalcy following a disaster. However, we cannot stress enough how important it is to follow these guidelines and do business with a member of a professional trade association. Doing so will go a long way to providing peace of mind throughout the rebuilding process.
Searching for a Builder
Searching for Your Local Home Builders Association
Searching for Volunteer Opportunities
Looking to help homeowners devastated by Hurricane Harvey? Click over to Samaritan’s Purse for volunteer opportunities surrounding the impacted areas. Samaritan’s Purse mobilizes staff and equipment and enlists thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters in the United States. They are looking for an army of volunteers — as many as 1,000 a day.
Selecting a Qualified Contractor
Here are a few important guidelines to help you select a competent contractor:
GET MULTIPLE ESTIMATES
A great rule of thumb is to get a minimum of three estimates.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS of Your Contractor
- How long have you been in the building business?
- What type of insurance do you carry? (for example workers comp, general liability, or builder risk … ask for proof of insurance or for the name of an agent so you can call to verify the coverage)
- What’s the best was to communicate with you?
- Are you a member of a professional trade organization such as your local builders association. There are local builders associations serving each and every one of the area affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. For more information on those associations, visit www.TexasBuilders.org.
- Do I see myself working and communicating with this contractor?
- What is my gut telling me? (While hard to quantify, don’t underestimate your own intuition.)
ASK FOR REFERENCES (and then follow-up!)
- Get a minimum of three references from past customers
- Call each reference
- Contact or visit your town code inspector or local builders association. Some Texas cities require that builders are registered and bonded. Check with your city’s building permits department in this regard. These officials will also know how many projects they’ve inspected. They will also know how many projects they’ve inspected for the contractor and, possibly, the subs they’ve used for projects. Most builders associations will be able to tell you if a particular builder is an active member in good standing.
HAVE A CONTRACT
The contract should include at least these 4 things:
- A description of how change orders are processed
- Payment Schedule: DO NOT pay for the entire job up front or pay in cash. In fact, state law prohibits contractors in disaster areas from taking up front money unless they have held a physical business address in the county or adjacent county for at least one year. This law, found in Chapter 58 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, provides other valuable protections for those rebuilding in disaster areas.
- Completion date
Like any other transaction, the verbiage of the contract will determine how the dispute is handled. Be sure to read it carefully and, if you still do not understand it, seek the advice of qualified legal counsel.
The goal of the Disaster Assistance Improvement Program is to improve access to disaster information and make applying for disaster assistance easier. This is not just the beginning of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) grant process, but it is also the gatekeeper for assistance from the federal government. For business owners, that assistance will include SBA disaster loans which will be available. Individuals and businesses must register to secure resources. This is an important step of the recovery process that is not well understood.
FEMA, under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), acts as the managing partner. The site allows you to find disaster assistance that meets individual needs, learn more about the 70 forms of assistance from 17 federal agencies, apply and determine status for disaster assistance and reduce applications required, identify a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center, locate a hotel or temporary place to live, find food and nutrition programs, apply for change of address, and learn more about SBA loans for homeowners, renters, and businesses.
- FEMA Assistance
- FEMA – Removing Mold From Your Home
- FEMA – Find a Place to Stay
- FEMA – Housing Resources
- Federal Emergency Management Agency | (800) 621-FEMA
- IRS Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Harvey
- U.S. Department of Labor
State & National Resources
The following information may be helpful to anyone who suffered a loss as a result of natural disasters.
♦ Texas Department of Public Safety | (512) 424-2138
♦ Red Cross | 800-RED-CROSS
♦ Salvation Army USA | 800-SAL-ARMY
If your insurance policy information has been lost, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) can help you locate your agent or insurance company. Call TDI’s Consumer Help Line at (800) 252-3439 for assistance.
Building In Texas
While the State of Texas does not require contractors to be licensed, builders should check with the applicable city, county and/or Homeowner Association regarding any local regulations regarding contractor oversight. Additionally, contractors should note that many trades are regulated by the State of Texas and/or local authorities. These include the following (note that this is not an exhaustive list):
- Engineers — Texas Board of Professional Engineers — https://engineers.texas.gov/
- Architects — Texas Board of Architectural Examiners — http://www.tbae.state.tx.us/
- Electricians — Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation — https://www.license.state.tx.us/
- HVAC Professionals — Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation — https://www.license.state.tx.us/
- Plumbers — Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners — http://www.tsbpe.state.tx.us/
Furthermore, Texas law prohibits certain contractors in disaster areas from taking up-front money unless they have held a physical business address in the county or adjacent county for at least one year. This law, found in Chapter 58 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, provides other valuable protections for those rebuilding in disaster areas.
Regarding building codes, municipalities administer strict oversight over new construction and remodels, and every county in Texas has the authority to mandate that all homes be built to code and pass independent third-party code inspections. In order for construction to be eligible for coverage through the Texas Windstorm Association, construction must be certified to conform with the state windstorm building code requirements: https://www.twia.org/windstorm-certification-requirements/.
Phil Crone is the executive officer of the Dallas Builders Association, the trade association and network of Dallas builders. Find out more about the DBA at dallasbuilders.com.