Natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and wildfires often bring out the best in people as communities come together to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out a few unscrupulous contractors who take 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 business.
BBB also has these specific tips for victims of natural disasters:
- Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors.
- Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if salespeople go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates for your state or province.
- Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment). Don’t sign any documents that give the contractor any rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.
- Be cautious regarding places you can’t see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof and other areas of your house. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts, and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.
- Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.
- Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on BBB.org. Check your state government agency responsible for registering and/or licensing contractors. Get at least three estimates and get everything in writing when hiring a contractor to make storm damage repairs.