NBC 5 Responds

NBC 5 Responds: Hiring the Right Plumber or Contractor to Fix Winter Storm Damage

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Though the winter storm has passed, some North Texans are still working to get their homes back in order.

Though you may be anxious to find someone to fix your pipes, HVAC or replace drywall, experts warn this is not the time to let down your guard.

Be Skeptical of the Person at Your Door

Be especially wary of anyone who solicits your business following the disaster.

“Plumbers are not going to be looking for work right now. The good contractors out there are going to be trying to schedule things because there's going to be plenty of work for everybody,” said Ben Gonzalez with the Texas Department of Insurance. “If somebody's coming to your door, I think that would be a red flag right now.”

Check Out the Person You’re Hiring

Plumbers are licensed in Texas and during this emergency, Governor Greg Abbot waived some fee and exam requirements for Texas plumbers with expired licenses. Out of state plumbers can also obtain provisional permits in order to help meet the demand for plumbers.

You can go to the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners website and use the public search tool to look up Texas plumbers and any past disciplinary action.

From this page, click on the “Responsible Master Plumber List” link to download a spreadsheet that you can use to search plumbers.

The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners says plumbers from outside Texas who are approved to work in this disaster will have an “OOS” after the company name to indicate they are from “out of state”.

The Texas State Board of Plumbing examiners says the list is updated every day.

There isn’t a state licensing board for contractors in Texas.

Monica Horton with the Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas says many complaints it sees involve a contractor that has taken off with a down payment for work.

“We advise consumers not to pay a dime until you're satisfied with the work. Some of the smaller contractors, if it's a large, large job, then they may require a small down payment and payments moving forward. But, don't let those get ahead of the work that's being completed. Don't pay in advance,” said Horton.

Keep in mind, there are special rules around up-front payments for out-of-area contractors during an emergency.

Examine References

“Contractors will say that they are doing a job around the corner or down the street. They may go into your neighborhood and do a fantastic job for one of your neighbors just so they can get that neighbor's recommendation because you're going to trust somebody like that,” said Horton.

You can use the BBB’s website as a search tool.

The TDI also suggests asking friends and neighbors for recommendations of people they’ve worked with during non-disaster times. Identify reputable plumbers or contractors and get on their wait list.

Contracts, Insurance and Other Questions

When hiring a contractor after a disaster, the Texas Office of the Attorney General offers additional recommendations including asking for proof of insurance. The contractor should have disability and workers' compensation insurance. Otherwise, you could be liable for accidents at your home.

Don’t sign over insurance or FEMA proceeds.

Don’t sign a contract with blank spaces and get any guarantees in writing.

The State Bar of Texas published this list of additional do’s and don’ts.

The State Bar of Texas operates a legal aid helpline to connect low-income Texans with legal assistance with various issues including fraud and scam concerns.

The Texas Department of Insurance also operates a helpline for insurance questions and fraud concerns.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our Customer Complaint form.

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