DISASTER RELIEF RESOURCES


Secretary of State Kemp Issues Consumer Protection Reminders to Georgians Following Recent Storms

Atlanta – Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp reminded consumers affected by recent storms across the state that certain types of residential and general contractors require state licensure, and warned home and business owners to be wary of potential scams.

Typical damage that requires a contractor to hold a state-issued license includes major structural repair, electrical, plumbing and HVAC. Consumers can verify that a contractor is properly licensed or file a complaint against a licensed contractor online at: http://sos.georgia.gov/plb.

Additionally, state law exempts some types of construction work from licensure. Typical damage that does not require a licensed contractor includes roofing, painting, sheetrock, siding, mold remediation, flooring, foundation waterproofing and septic tank repair. Septic tank repair must be conducted by a person certified by the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Consumers should know that is illegal for a homeowner to obtain a building permit and use an unlicensed contractor to manage construction services. The person or business who obtains the permit could also assume the majority of liability for the project, leaving the consumer with little to no legal recourse.

When hiring someone to conduct construction work, watch out for these red flags that you may be dealing with a dishonest individual:

  • A person going door-to-door selling their services.
  • A person who offers services for a short time only, which makes consumers feel rushed and unable to research the contractor.
  • Pressure to pay high up front costs.
  • Refusal or reluctance to set out complete and specific contract terms in writing.
  • Lack of permanent and verifiable name, address and phone number of the business.

For additional consumer tips, please visit the Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards website at: http://sos.georgia.gov/plb.

Brian Kemp has served as Georgia Secretary of State since January, 2010.  Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities and professional license holders. The office also oversees the Georgia Archives and the Capitol Museum.

Click HERE for more information.

Beware of Fly-by-Night Contractors

Across the country each year, many people become victims of tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes or wildfires.  These natural disasters cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars annually.

One of the untold costs associated with disasters are those losses due to fraud.  Often "fly-by-night" contractors appear in communities right after a disaster and further victimize the victims by swindling them out of their precious and often limited resources by offering cheap and quick repair work.  Here's a warning from home builders that may save you from another disaster:  unscrupulous contractors.

Some signs that a contractor could be trying to take advantage of you:

  • You are told that on this job, a contract "won't be necessary."

  • You are asked to pay for the entire job "up front" or pay cash to a salesperson instead of a check or money order to a company.

  • You are confronted with scare tactics, intimidation or threats.

  • You are told you have been "chosen" as a demonstration project at a special, low price.

  • You are told a "special" low price is good only if you sign a contract today.

  • The contractor won't give you a reference--or the references can't be located.

  • You can't verify the contractor's business address or license.


Advice to Consumers for After the Emergency
 
Listen to local radio or television stations for continuing advisories on ways to help recover from the emergency.  Here is more advice to follow after an emergency:
  • Use extreme caution when entering buildings that may have been damaged by the disaster.  Buildings can collapse without warning.
  • Check for leaking gas pipes in your home.  Do this by SMELL only.  Do not use matches or candles.  If you smell gas:
    1. Immediately open windows and doors;
    2. Turn off the main gas valve;
    3. Leave the house;
    4. Go to another location and notify the gas company and/or fire department.
    5. DO NOT RE-ENTER YOUR HOUSE UNTIL YOU ARE TOLD IT IS SAFE TO DO SO.
  • Anyone returning home after the flood waters have subsided and who suspects their natural gas appliances have been flooded or damaged should have the equipment inspected and serviced by a qualified gas contractor or a Natural Gas Advantage dealer.  
    • Residents should also call the Atlanta Gas Light hotline at 1-877-427-4321 if they believe they have a natural gas leak.  Natural gas is odorless, so for safety purposes, an odorant called "mercaptan" is added to generate a smell similar to rotten eggs.
    • Customers who smell a natural gas odor should adhere to the following safety procedures
      • Do not use any devices that might create a spark, such as light switches, phones, flashlights, or electric appliances, including computers.  A spark could ignite the gas.
      • Immediately have everyone leave the house.
      • Go to a nearby phone and call the Atlanta Gas Light hotline to report the odor. 
        1-877-427-4321.
      • Keep everyone away from the building until given the "all clear" from a gas company employee.

  • If any of your electrical appliances are wet, first turn off the main power switch in your house, then unplug the wet appliances, dry them out, and check for visible damage.  If none, reconnect the appliances and turn on the main power switch.  CAUTION: Do not do any of these things while you are wet or standing in water.  If fuses blow when power is restored, turn off the main power switch again and then inspect for short circuits in your home wiring, appliances, and equipment.  Call the utility company for help.

  • Use only battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to examine your home for damage, as flammables may be inside.

  • Check food and water supplies before using them.  Foods that require refrigeration may be spoiled if electric power has been off for some time.  Do not eat fresh food that has come in contact with flood water.  Be sure to follow the broadcasted instructions concerning the use of food and water supplies.

  • Check to see that sewage lines are intact before flushing toilets.

  • Report damaged water, sewage, and gas lines to the proper authorities.

  • If you must use your car, drive carefully along streets and avoid debris.  Avoid loose, dangling or broken wires, and report them to the fire department or utility company.

  • Do not visit the disaster area, as you may hamper rescue efforts.

  • Notify your insurance agent or broker if your property was damaged.

  • Home owners are urged to replace storm damaged heating and cooling equipment.  Learn more by clicking HERE.
Important Links:
Click on each heading below to view more information.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Resources:

               Consumer guidelines
               FEMA Rebuilding Resources
               Disaster On-line Newsroom
               Flood Checklist
 
 
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