How to Avoid Storm Repair Rip-Offs

Snowstorms, severe wind, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters often bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out contractors taking advantage of those who have already been victimized. Better Business Bureau is warning homeowners affected by natural disasters to beware of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting businesses. Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver.

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips for consumers and businesses looking for contractors to make repairs:

  • Buy local. There are a number of trustworthy local contractors who will do their best to repair your home at a reasonable price.
  • Be cautious of door-to-door salespeople who use high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Check with your insurance carrier before making major repairs. An adjuster may need to assess the damage, and the carrier may have recommendations for repairs or contractors.
  • Don’t jump on the first offer you receive. Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project.
  • Ask if the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage.
  • Ask if the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city.
  • Find out if permits are needed before proceeding with the work. The contractor also should be aware of any required permits.
  • Ask if the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
  • Read and understand the contract before signing. Get any verbal promises in writing, including the start and completion dates in the contract.
  • Remember the rule of thirds. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.

BBB is also warning contractors to beware of storm chasers who offer to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use the business’s established name, reputation, and phone. They masquerade as a local business, collect the insurance money and then move on, leaving the real business to deal with unsatisfied customers due to bad workmanship, unfinished work, or unfulfilled warranties.

Source: Better Business Bureau of North Alabama and BBB.org

To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to https://www.bbb.org