Archive for the ‘Hurricane’ Category

Contractors Prepare: 2013 Hurricane Season

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Last week, the Office of the Attorney General issued a general letter from Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to the public regarding the 2013 hurricane season. Sometimes, for unfortunate reasons, this time of the year and leading into the late fall and early winter can see a spike in the need for contractors and subcontractors. More unfortunate still is that when we see this spike in demand, we sometimes read or hear about the negative, and instances of “contractor fraud.” Since Buddy has taken the time to inform the public about how to handle these situations, I thought it fitting to inform contractors how they can better prepare for the 2013 hurricane season, and avoid problems in their own right.

Keepin’ It Current

Louisiana has pretty strict guidelines for determining who is allowed to bid, contract and work on a project. The foundation of all that governs contractors in this state is the license. Long story short and in general: you need one (there are always exceptions, depending on the work being done). But I’m an attorney, so I can’t keep it that short. Whether you are an out-of-state contractor or an in-state contractor, in order to operate within the law, there are certain qualifications that must be met. One such necessity is being licensed by this state before even bidding on a project. In my experience, this isn’t usually a problem when people come to us here at the Wolfe Law Group. However, knowing that this license expires is just as important as knowing that you are licensed in the first place. As we enter into a potentially busy season, take the time to review your license. Is it a one-, two- or three-year license? When was it issued? Make sure you keep it current. Your license expires on the anniversary of the date on which it was originally issued. You only have 15 days from that expiration to renew your license without paying a penalty, or worse, being treated as a new applicant.

To all you new applicants out there: now is the time to begin the process of acquiring the proper licensing or registration if you have not already done so. As I said before, any hurricane season has the potential for a spike in business. However, acquiring a license isn’t a quick turnaround. Depending on your status, it could take anywhere from 4 to 10 weeks to get your license. During a time when competition could become rather fierce, this is a delay that could potentially kill your ability to turn a profit.

More important, though, is the need to avoid penalties, losses and lawsuits in the future. The last thing you want to do is go through the entire process and expense of completing a project to then have difficulties with the homeowner and you NOT be licensed. For example, if they decide to not pay you but you don’t have your license, you almost definitely do not have any lien rights under the Private Works Act. If they decide to report you and you don’t have a license, you risk exposure to civil and potentially criminal penalties. If they decide to sue you, well, you get the point. As we enter the 2013 hurricane season, the first item on your contractor preparedness checklist should be to make sure everything is current.

Keepin’ It Active

Less “do or die,” but in my opinion important, is maintaining an active status with the Secretary of State. You would be amazed at how many times a simple search on the Secretary of State’s website reveals that a company actively doing business in this state is actually listed as inactive or that its charter has been revoked by the Secretary. Why? Because people get sloppy. It takes almost no time and very little expense to maintain an active, good standing status with the State of Louisiana, yet people so often let this fall by the wayside. While it doesn’t necessarily impact one’s ability to work or provide services in the state, it could have ramifications if you’re sued by a disgruntled homeowner.

Remember, you are running a business. In so doing, there are certain guidelines and requirements that you need to follow depending on the type of business you are operating. Stay on top of it, or better still, have your lawyer stay on top of it for you. Let’s get back to that disgruntled homeowner from above. Say, the project is complete and, for whatever reason, they sue your company. You’re safe, though, personally right? Maybe. Have you been keeping up with those state requirements for your business? Have you been filing all the correct paperwork every year? Have you been maintaining your accounts correctly? Has your business been operating as a true business, or is it just a front for either yourself or another business? If you can’t answer yes to these questions, you have a problem and you might not be protected. An easy way to avoid this is to keep it active. Make sure you are consistently keeping records with the state and you consistently keep good records for your business. Don’t let the “business-y” end of your construction business lag, especially moving into a time when you could potentially become much busier than usual. If this isn’t your thing – hire that attorney to do it for you.

Keepin’ It Honest

The final note is just one of general good business practice. Keep it honest. When you start bidding and contracting, a lot of times you can avoid future headaches by just playing the game fairly. Of course, there will always be those difficult people you will encounter along the way. It’s amazing, though, how far someone can get (and how much trouble they can avoid) by developing an honest and trusting relationship with the people they are working with. Now is as good a time as any to make that a work mantra.

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Posted in:     Construction Contracts, Hurricane, Licensing, Regulations  /  Tags: , , , ,   /   1 Comment

Cut Your Risks: Build – or Rebuild – Sustainably

Cut Your Risks: Build – or Rebuild – Sustainably

This article was contributed by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley, Editor of the HomeownersInsurance.com blog. Carrie has been writing insurance news and consumer information for HomeInsurance.com since 2008. She graduated from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington in 2005 with a B.A. in Professional Writing and Journalism.

Green building practices do more than protect the environment, and smart homeowners have more than energy savings to gain when they strive to comply with LEED requirements. Homes built with sustainable, energy-efficient materials are proving to be less vulnerable to wind, hail and water, making them better investments for homebuyers and more attractive to insurers seeking to lessen risk. This could mean lower insurance premiums for homeowners who take steps to increase their homes’ sustainability.  

Shelter from the storm

Extreme weather is nothing new to Louisiana, but the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was particularly severe.  The need to rethink building practices became all too clear overnight. If there is a silver lining to be found in the Katrina disaster, it’s that those communities devastated by the hurricane have had – and still have – the opportunity to rebuild in such a way that should make them better able to withstand the next storm that blows through.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports an average cost of more than $6,000 to mitigate an insurance claim caused by severe weather. According to the III, Hurricane Katrina cost $16.2 billion in insurance claims, averaging $96,821 each. Consider how much lower this might have been if more homes and businesses had been built using impact-resistant roofing materials such as aluminum or steel that can withstand not only fire but wind, hail and flying debris. Some insurance companies already offer premium discounts to Louisiana homeowners who install these roofing upgrades.

It pays to upgrade your home

Water damage claims typically cost insurance companies around $7,000, according to the III, and make up almost 25% of homeowners claims in the U.S.  In an effort to bring this average down, some insurance companies may offer lower premiums for homes that earn Indoor Water Efficiency points by complying with the LEED v2009 requirement of 20% water savings.

Following are some other upgrades that could lower your homeowners insurance costs:

  • New plumbing systems
  • Updated HVAC systems
  • Modernized electrical systems

Updating these systems in your home can help you avoid expensive water damage, mold and fire claims. Insurance companies recognize that you are lowering your chance of filing claims and are likely to reward your efforts.

The benefits of green building are so great that some homeowners insurance companies now offer green replacement coverage for standard homes.  If a non-LEED certified home is damaged or devastated by covered peril, green replacement covers the cost to rebuild using sustainable, energy-efficient materials.

Savvy homeowners know that saving energy and materials are the underlying reasons to go green. But they also understand that the value of sustainable building goes beyond those savings. One way you could realize that value is by lowering your home insurance risk, which could mean lower home insurance premiums.

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Slow Moving Hurricane Isaac

As Hurricane Isaac plowed into South Louisiana it decided that it wanted to hang around for a while. Currently the center is just above Baton Rouge, La and has been moving at 6mph all day. Essentially the City of New Orleans has been dealing with 40mph + sustained winds for the past twenty-four hours. The rainfall is now the biggest factor because the large amounts have no where to go, therefore flooding is an issue. Weather Channel recently reported over 20″ of rainfall in Audubon Park located in Uptown New Orleans.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capitol city, is being hit hard with wind and rain. The majority of Louisiana’s population lives in the I-10 / I-12 corridor. These are the areas that have taken on Isaac with full force. Plaquemines Parish has probably the worst damage thus far where waters of the storm surge rose above the levees. Other hard hit Parishes of Louisiana include, Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, St. John, St. Charles, Ascension, Livingston and East Baton Rouge. Residents of these Parishes will be out of the weather soon but the trouble will continue with the clean up and lack of power. Entergy has its work cut out when it commences restoring power to the millions living in the area.

Thursday and Friday, will be days of cleanup and restoring life back to normal. Assessment of damages will be critical to a swift and full recovery. More to come from ConstructionLawMonitor.com

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Hurricane Isaac – Landfall

Hurricane Isaac made landfall today in Louisiana over Plaquemines parish and then it took a turn to the west whereby it went back over open water. As of 11:30 CST the storm is still over the water and the rain bands are pelting the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas.

For those who own commercial and residential property in New Orleans, Metairie and other metropolitan areas of South Louisiana, you must ride out the storm and make it a priority to get your property secure. Next is to assess the damage. Make a proper claim with your property and flood insurance carrier. You will need to file a “sworn proof of loss” which requires an estimate of damages that is signed off on by you the insured.

Do not simply rely on your insurance company and/or agent. Be proactive and get an estimate. If you can afford it make the repairs and keep proof of all costs expended for the repair. Insurance will only indemnify you which means pay you back for what you spent to repair.

Be weary of out-of-state or unlicensed contractors who are not qualified to do repairs to your property. Get your own public adjuster to battle with the insurance adjuster. Get your own contractor to battle with the estimate of the insurance company. Make quality repairs and demand that your insurance fully indemnify you as is required by law and under the policy.

As of Midnight CST the Weather Channel has New Orleans reporting 2.40 inches of rain between 7pm and 10pm. More to come as this situation progresses.

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