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THE 6.6 QUAKE : On the Rebound: A Guide to Recovery and Resources : Making It a Home Again

January 23, 1994

It may have been home sweet home a week ago, but it sure looks like a mess now. For renters and homeowners trying to decide what to do next, help is available.

Here is a road map through the tangle of tasks ahead, from assessing the damage to making repairs; from filing an insurance claim or an emergency loan application to paying the mortgage; from making sure your present house is comfortable to finding a new apartment when the one you had swayed and buckled.

Getting an Inspection

* If your home or building was not inspected by the Building and Safety Department, call for an inspection at the following numbers.

In the 213 area code: 237-0920, 237-0921 or 237-1487; 485-1936, 485-1937 or 485-1938; 485-7091, 485-7092, 485-8573 or 485-7093.

There are no special numbers in the 818 or 310 area codes; the above numbers are for all damaged structures in the city.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday January 24, 1994 Ventura West Edition Metro Part B Page 5 Column 4 Zones Desk 2 inches; 55 words Type of Material: Correction
Ventura numbers--A story Sunday on U2 of "On the Rebound," a special guide to help those affected by the earthquake, may have been misleading in the way it listed telephone numbers for city building inspection departments. Those needing to call their local inspection office can find a full list of Ventura County cities and their individual inspection department numbers on U7 of that section.

In the 805 area code: 497-8611; 529-6864, Ext. 421; 583-6723; 583-6700; 524-7125; 524-7121; 933-4218; 388-4270; 385-7936; 654-7869; 986-6515; 640-2555, or 654-2771.

* If your home or building was inspected by the Building and Safety Department, a red, yellow, or green tag will be attached to the structure. Red means unsafe, do not enter or occupy. Yellow means limited entry and enter at your own risk. Green means no apparent hazard.

* The city encourages residents to hire private inspectors to assess the damage.

* Look in the Yellow Pages under home inspections or call the Structural Engineers and Architects Assn. of Southern California, (310) 908-6131, which can refer you to licensed structural engineers in your area.

* Private inspectors will assess the damage and give you a written report that you can submit to a contractor.

Hiring a Contractor

The quake has hit and now you want your home or business back in one piece as soon as possible. The Building Industry Assn. has chapters throughout the area with lists of licensed contractors who are members. The Greater Los Angeles-Ventura chapter's number is (818) 591-2001. Here are some guidelines if you need to hire a contractor.

* Before randomly picking a contractor, owners should do a spot inspection: Walk around the property and check the ground for muddy spots that would indicate a broken water or sewer pipe; check gas meters for leaks--a rotten-egg smell is a giveaway; check all overhead electrical and phone lines for damage, and check water heaters, furnaces and air-conditioning units for leaks, broken wires or broken plumbing.

* When a home or business has broken windows, it may be smarter to board them up--and have them inspected--instead of immediately replacing the glass.

* Get several bids. Remember that a deal that sounds too good to be true usually is.

* Ask to see the contractor's wallet-size license and a driver's license or other form of identification.

* A full-service inspection, including checks for roof, plumbing and structural damage, should cost about $200.

* Call the Contractors State License Board's toll-free line, (800) 321-2752, to ensure that the license has not been suspended.

* Ask to see a copy of the contractor's certificate of workers' compensation and liability insurance coverage. Call the contractor's insurance carrier to verify that the policy is in force.

* If your insurance isn't paying the bills and you have to borrow to finance a repair job, be wary of contractors who insist on helping you select a lender--you could become a victim of a kickback scheme that will increase your costs.

* Insist on a written contract that spells out what will be done, what materials will be used, brand names of any materials you prefer, the estimated time it will take to do the work, when each payment is due and how disputes will be resolved.

* Under state law, contractors cannot ask for more than $1,000 upfront, or 10% of the job's price excluding finance charges, whichever is less.

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