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How to Start Building After Sandy

In the aftermath of Sandy many municipalities and their various departments, such as zoning and construction, modified their permit and approval procedures. Their goal was to enable the victims of flood, wind and fire and all other damages caused by the storm to begin to rebuild their homes and their lives. However, in the quest to re-build their homes many residents are hurrying through the selection process to find contractors to begin construction and forgetting some important steps to protect themselves. These are some important reminders that every resident should consider in hiring contractors and choosing their plan of re-construction.

First, prior to hiring a contractor the homeowner should confirm that the contractor is licensed with the State of New Jersey. This can be easily accomplished by confirming that the contractor is registered with the State of New Jersey in accordance with the Contractor's Registration Act. A homeowner should also confirm that the registration is not expired, suspended or revoked. The Contractor's Registration Act requires every registered contractor to have a proper registration number. If your contractor cannot provide a number that has the prefix 13VH then the homeowner should access the State website for Community Affairs to review the list of contractors who are presently facing Notices of Violations prior to hiring them. Additionally, that registration number ensures that the contractor has the proper liability insurance.

In addition, it is important to discuss with the contractor who will obtain any necessary permits. This step in the process maybe somewhat modified from the traditional permit process, as many municipalities have new easier procedures for victims of Sandy to re-build and repair storm damage. The homeowner and the contractor should call the local building department officials in their town to confirm if a process has been set up for Sandy victims. However, whether your municipality has modified the process or not, the contract with the contractor should indicate who is ultimately responsible to obtain all inspection permits once the work is completed.

Many residents who own older homes may be tempted to want to re-build exactly what they owned prior to Sandy without making the necessary repairs to bring their house up to current code. This is not appropriate, as this can result in zoning or building violations. Moreover, a house re-built to code may nullify a homeowner's claim for insurance proceeds. It is important to review and fully understand the terms and conditions of your policy.

The contract between the parties should establish a payment plan especially if the resident is awaiting insurance proceeds to pay for the cost of the work. Many insurance companies may not pay out the full amount of the insurance proceeds in a lump sum. The insurance company may require installment payments as work is completed or refund the homeowner a portion after the work is complete. Moreover, the homeowner should understand that a contractor is not bound by the amount and timing of receipt of insurance proceeds. It is best that the homeowner and contractor agree on the payment schedule with the full understanding of the homeowner's insurance policy.

It is important that the homeowner be aware of the progress of the work that is ongoing in the home. If there is something that is not done to the homeowner's liking, discuss it with the contractor before they leave the home. Getting a contractor to come back to replace or repair something may be more difficult than anticipated.

Of course, if there is a situation where a contractor leaves without completing a job or does not complete the project in a workmanlike manner, the homeowner can contact the Law Firm of R.C. Shea & Associates to protect their rights. Our firm has several attorneys ready to assist you through this difficult time.