Seeking Storm/Flood Damage Cleanup or Repairs?
If storm or flood damage ever hits your home and you need a professional for cleanup or repairs, here are some tips to help you find the right contractor. Iowa law provides certain consumer protections to Iowans, particularly those who agree to purchase goods or services offered door-to-door.
Consumer Tips for Storm and Flood Victims
- Check out the contractor before you sign a contract or pay any money. Ask if the contractor is registered with the Iowa Workforce Development's Division of Labor Services. You can check a contractor's registration online through the Division of Labor Services website, or call 1-800-562-4692 or 515-242-5871). Be sure to check local references. Also, check Iowa Courts Online for past court cases, and see if there are complaints on file with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.
- Get it in writing. Seek several written estimates for the job you want done. Before any work begins, agree on a written contract detailing work to be done, responsibility for permits, costs, and any other promises. Request a copy of the contractor's liability insurance certificate. Put start and completion dates in writing and consequences if the contractor fails to follow them (For example: The contract could be nullified if the contractor doesn't start on time.).
- If you don’t know the contractor personally, consider collecting identifying information about the contractor before signing a contract. This could be your one chance to collect this information should something go wrong. Write down or take a photo of the license plate on the contractor’s vehicle, any professional licenses or certifications, and even the person’s driver’s license. If the contractor objects to providing this information, you might want to reconsider hiring that contractor.
- Avoid paying large sums in advance to a contractor. If you have to make a partial advance payment for materials, make your check out to the supplier and the contractor. Insist on a "mechanic's lien waiver" in case the contractor fails to pay others for materials or labor.
- In most cases, Iowa's Door-to-Door Sales law gives you three business days to cancel a contract signed at your home.
Advice for Contractors
- A consumer contract must contain all of the material terms, and be fully disclosed to the consumer before the consumer signs the contract – and the contractor must leave a complete copy with the consumer after it is signed.
- While a contractor can advise a consumer on what work and materials are needed to repair storm damage, the consumer must be the person to negotiate the insurance claim with the insurance adjustor or the company.
- If the Iowa Door-to-Door Sales Act applies to the sale, the seller must use the proper language and format required in Iowa, and provide the proper Iowa cancellation forms at the time of sale. (Use of any other form could result in the voiding of the contract as well as civil penalties.)
- A seller cannot include provisions in a contract that materially misrepresent the legal rights of either party, even if the seller has no intention of enforcing the misrepresentations.
- A person collecting on a consumer debt cannot threaten to take action that the collector has no intention of taking.
- If the contractor intends to enforce the document as a contract, the document must clearly and conspicuously disclose that it is a binding contract before the consumer signs it.
- State law prohibits price gouging when a county has been declared a disaster area.
If you have a question or complaint regarding a contractor issue, contact our Consumer Protection Division. If the matter involves a question or complaint about an existing insurance policy, contact the Iowa Insurance Division at www.iid.state.ia.us or call 515-281-5705 (or toll-free at 877-955-1212).