When it comes to rebuilding, proceed with care

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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As residents prepare to rebuild after Sunday’s devastating fire in North Auburn, the Placer County Contractors Association and Builders Exchange has some advice. “Slow down and don’t get pressured into signing anything (with a contractor),” business development director Jeff Henry said this week. “Get with your insurance company and give them time to do their job. Do everything you can with your insurance company to get the claim through.” Typically and unfortunately, disasters attract scammers. Henry said he’s known of cases where someone will show up while a house is still burning. Before hiring anyone, do a background check, he said. Make sure the contractor is licensed, insured and has worker’s comp insurance in place. The quickest way to check a contractor’s license is online at “If there are actions against a contractor, it’s right there,” Henry said. Then take the research another step. “Get referrals of projects he’s worked on — not just his favorite, but a big list covering everything they’ve done,” Henry said. “Then actually call and see how they handled the work. Did they complete the job? Was there an aggressive push for more money? Did it feel like they were on the borderline of desperate? Did they ask for early draws? And, most importantly, how close was the final bill to the original contract amount?” Another thing to keep in mind is that the cheapest bid is not always the best one. “Make sure they don’t go in with low numbers, just to add things down the road,” Henry said. Henry, who once worked with a contracting firm that did fire restoration and has seen the scamming phenomenon first-hand, is working with the Placer County District Attorney’s Office to ensure that scammers are kept at bay. “Specifically we’ll be looking in force for (scamming) and setting up stings,” Henry said. “We’re not going to tell people who they are and where they are. We’re not going to tolerate (scammers). The District Attorney is more than willing to prosecute.” But once homeowners have done the research and chosen a contractor, they’ll need to ensure the permit process is handled correctly. “Make sure that if permits are needed, the contractor pulls those permits,” Henry said. “It is very important that permits are clarified and spelled out in the contract. We have the advantage of working with Placer County, which is one of the most proactive counties as far as building. The county will work very well with the public.” Demolition fees waived The county is waiving demolition permit fees for homeowners impacted by the fire, to make it faster and more efficient to get the cleanup started, according to Bob Martino, chief building official. But residents still must obtain the permits. “It’s really important for us that the owner document the footage loss,” Martino said. “Some fees are based on square footage — school fees and some other impact fees. Typically, if I have a 2,000-square-foot house that burned down and I can document that loss, and I build a 2,500-square-foot house to replace it, I’ll only be charged for the extra footage. “We’ll want to work closely with all these folks to make sure they understand the process and what’s needed. We’ll expedite their plan renewal to get them a rebuild permit as soon as possible. And there’ll be a little more hand holding.” The community’s help and support will be an important part of rebuilding. “Just focus on your property and documentation,” he said. “And help your neighbors. If you’ve got the time to lend a hand, please do so.” Residents who have concerns or want more information are welcome to contact the Placer County Contractors Association. “We encourage people, if they’re confused or question anything, to call us,” Henry said. “We’ll do what we can to point them in the right direction and give them the information they need.” Gloria Young can be reached at ------------------------------------------- Resources to Rebuild Contractor information: or e-mail planroom@ To check contractor’s license: Placer County Contractors Association and Builders Exchange: 231 Cherry Ave., Suite 101, Auburn, phone (530) 889-3953 10656 Industrial Ave., Suite 160, Roseville, Phone (916) 771-7229 Contractors who would like to donate time or materials for the fire cleanup are encouraged to call the Builders Exchange. Placer County Building Department (permits) —