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The Contractors State License Board, which operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, licenses and regulates California’s 285,000 contractors and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States.
Avoid the Confusion
Rebuilding after any disaster can seem like an endless highway of contradicting road signs. That’s why the California Contractors State License Board wants to make you aware of valuable steps to take, as well as warning signs that you may confront, during the process of rebuilding or restoring your home or other structure.
Generally, reconstruction in a disaster area will be classified in one of two categories: home improvement or new construction. Understanding these categories will enable you to identify your particular damage when communicating with your city or county building department, your insurance company, and the other qualified professionals you select for your project.
Home Improvement – If, after the disaster, there is an existing foundation, chimney, or partial walls, your project likely will be classified as a home improvement project. This category may be less costly compared to a new construction project.
New Construction (Single-Family Dwelling) – If, after the disaster, there is nothing on your property other than earth and you will be constructing from the ground, up, your project will likely be classified as a new construction project. Be aware that the disaster declaration may possibly affect this determination.
Contact your local city or county building department to find out what the guidelines, requirements or permits are for demolition or debris removal and disposal. There may be fees associated with these steps, but many are waived in disaster situations. Debris removal and disposal is a section that you may want to include in the contract with your licensed contractor
You will be faced with a number of steps during your reconstruction project. It is important to take your time and avoid any anxious tendency to “get this over with” or “just get back home.” Trying to speed the process can result in overlooking important details that may present structural or financial problems later on.
Insurance – Once you complete evaluation and work with your state-licensed insurance adjuster and you receive the loss coverage reimbursement money from your insurance policy, be sure to place those funds in a safe place. In this situation, a “safe” place refers to an account provided by a financial lending institution experienced with construction accounts. Your contractor is not a government-insured financial institution.
An account that would be less vulnerable to unscrupulous individuals would be a “construction escrow account.” This type of account enables you to protect your funds because the lender will require two signatures on a disbursement, as the agreed-upon project phases are funded. The construction escrow account lender may assist in verifying plans, suppliers, materials, and appropriate contractors before releasing funds.
Licensed Professionals – Whether your reconstruction project is classified as a remodel or new construction, you will need to check qualifications of the individuals you select to conduct your project. Look for experienced architects, inspectors, insurance agents, pest control companies, builders, and landscapers who are state-licensed, and verify their qualifications with the appropriate state agency and their business record with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).