Tennessee Floods Teach Contractors Lessons

June 28, 2010
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Comfort Supply of Nashville, Tenn., was affected by the flooding that occurred the first week of May. Having heard different stories at the supply house, Clay Blevins, CEO of Comfort Supply issued a warning for contractors working to fix and replace flooded HVAC units.

Natural disasters threaten every contractor in the nation. The only choice contractors have in these unpredictable situations is to be prepared to continue in business once the storm or crisis has passed.

Already learning some tough lessons in the flooded Nashville, Tenn., Comfort Supply, a wholesaler in Nashville, Tenn., issued a warning to contractors who are working to replace flooded HVAC units for flood victims.

“Contractors; beware when replacing flooded HVAC units and take steps to protect yourself and your business when dealing with flood recovery,” said Clay Blevins, CEO of Comfort Supply.

According to the company, contractors in the area are seeing an uptick in business as homeowners look to repair or replace flood-damaged HVAC units. With this increase in business, some are being exposed to financial risk due to premature insurance settlement promises and scheduled demolitions.

“We’ve heard from contractors who installed a new HVAC system on the promise of an insurance settlement that never appeared, or they started an installation on a house only to find out it was going to be razed,” said Blevins. “These are just a couple of examples of how HVAC contractors may not get paid when dealing with flood recovery situations.”

He suggested that contractors take special care not to get overexposed financially during this phase of recovery.

“To do this, contractors should work on a ‘payment-on-delivery’ basis for the immediate future in order to protect themselves from fraud or misfortune,” Blevins explained. “Everyone is scrambling to take care of more business during the recovery. As a result, contractors may compromise with a homeowner on payment terms in order to get the job, but it is also easy to get stuck with a bill if there is something wrong with the insurance settlement. Unless you personally know and trust who you are dealing with, your best bet is payment upfront.”

Another avenue Blevins recommends contractors take the time to explore is checking with the local code inspectors to see if homes in the area are scheduled for demolition or if the homeowner has had an inspection of the property.

“Occasionally a homeowner may find out that it will cost too much to bring an older property up to code or that the damage is too extensive to rebuild,” Blevins said. “You don’t want to be in the middle of installing a new unit on a house that’s going to be razed in a few weeks.”

TRUSTED INFORMATION

The disaster-struck area’s local government can be a prime source for recovery information. After a disaster has occurred, local government websites, like Nashville.gov, often become a hub for official and trusted information. When accessing Nashville.gov, contractors will find information about quickly gaining permits and about the special rules that apply to flood damaged homes. In a six page document located on the “Clean Up & Repair Guidelines” page, the Department of Codes and Building Safety advises homeowners and contractors of the special guidelines and requirements for flood-damaged homes and buildings.

“A building permit is required prior to making repairs to flood-damaged homes and buildings,” said the document. “While there are no permits required to do the ‘demolition’ and ‘clean up’ associated with the project (the removal of drywall and damaged carpet, doors, etc.), a building permit is required prior to the installation of the drywall and prior to repair of any electrical, plumbing, or mechanical (HVAC) system damage.”

BEING PREPARED

Being informed is not the only requirement for being able to assist disaster-stricken customers. A business must be prepared to operate in emergency situations possibly under limited conditions and with limited resources.

Ready.gov outlines a plan for businesses to make themselves disaster ready, and recommends that all business continuity plans must account for all hazards - both man-made and natural disasters.

“You should plan in advance to manage any emergency situation,” said the site. “Assess the situation, use common sense and available resources to take care of yourself, your co-workers, and your business’ recovery.”

Having survived the physical dangers, contractors should ensure that their businesses will survive the business dangers as they get back to work.

Publication date: 06/28/2010

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