Natural disasters lure con artists who will prey on those who are anxious to get the damage repaired, Carter said.
"In the aftermath of flooding, people are typically anxious to get home improvements underway," Carter said. "Despite a feeling of despair and a need to act quick, flood victims should take some time in selecting a contractor to ensure the company's legitimacy and quality of work. A quick decision could end up costing more in the long run if the contractor disappears or leaves a bigger mess than when (they) started."
Carter offered several tips on how to find reputable contractors, including:
* Indiana law requires a contract for work that will exceed $150 (Indiana Code 35-43-6-4),
* Take time and don't let a contractor rush the decisions,
* Do research and know how much money will be needed and what needs to be done,
* Talk with friends and family about recommended contractors,
* Opt for local, well-established contractors and don't assume that an advertisement makes a contractor reliable,
* Be skeptical if a bid is too low or too high,
* Get bids in writing, and
* Check with city or county building departments to determine the licensing requirements for the area and if the considered contractor is properly licensed, bonded and insured.
Before signing the contract, Carter said to make sure it includes the price of the job, a payment schedule, a detailed description of the work, an estimated start and completion date, the contractors name and address and a name and telephone number of the person to contact if a problem arises as well as the contractor's signature.
Carter said residents should not pay more than one-third of the total cost as a down payment. Remaining payments should be tied to completion of specified amounts of work.
He added final payment to contractors should not be made until it is known that all subcontractors and/or suppliers have been paid and that those needing work should get written proof of payment because subcontractors and suppliers may file a mechanics lien against homeowners if they haven't been paid.
Carter also reminded Hoosiers to get a copy of warranties and keep all records related to projects, including the contract, change orders, warranties and correspondence.
Consumers who have been a victim of home improvement fraud may file a complaint with Carter's office by calling 1-800-382-5516 or by filing a complaint online at www.IndianaConsumer.com.