Mississippi Disaster Survivors: Check on a Contractor Before You Sign

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JACKSON, Miss. – Disaster survivors should check a contractor’s credentials before signing a rebuilding contract. The Mississippi Board of Contractors cautions that fraudulent contractors are contacting survivors and asking them to sign contracts in the amount of their entire homeowner insurance benefit.

Residential building contractors working in Mississippi are required to be licensed with the Mississippi Board of Contractors. It is easy to talk to a representative of the board and find out if a contractor is licensed and has a clean record with the board. Call 800-880-6161, press 1 speak to a representative, and ask your questions.

According to Mississippi law, “It is unlawful to perform residential construction or residential improvement without a valid license. Likewise, it is unlawful to submit a bid, enter into a contract or otherwise engage in the business of a commercial contractor without a valid certificate of responsibility. Violators are subject to a monetary penalty and/or suspension or revocation of their license or certificate of responsibility.”

This week the board learned of an incident where an unlicensed contractor talked an elderly survivor into signing a repair contract totaling the entire amount of her insurance settlement. The perpetrator showed her fraudulent credentials.

Don’t be talked into signing a contract on the spot. The board recommends getting two or three estimates. Each estimate should be in writing and should include the total price, the materials to be used, a timetable for payments and the expected completion date.

Get at least three references from the contractor. After the contractor leaves, check with the board to verify that the contractor is licensed. Then get in touch with the references and find out their experience.

Don’t make a large down payment. Make payments as the work progresses. Don’t pay for work not completed. Don’t pay in cash. A check provides proof of payment and amount. Don’t make a final payment until everything is completed to your satisfaction. Keep all receipts and documents pertaining to the project. For more information, view the board’s website at msboc.us.

Disaster survivors in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Montgomery, Rankin, Simpson, Warren, Wayne and Winston counties may be eligible for FEMA’s Individual Assistance program.

Individuals and households in those counties can register for FEMA Individual Assistance online at DisasterAssistance.gov, via smartphone or tablet at m.FEMA.gov or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362). People who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY should call 800-462-7585. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (central time) and assistance is available in multiple languages.

For more information on Mississippi disaster recovery, go to FEMA.gov/Disaster/4175. Visit the MEMA site at msema.org or on Facebook at .

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. 

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). If you have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, call 800-462-7585 directly; if you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.

FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.

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