The aftermath of a storm often brings out people looking to take advantage of those who need help cleaning up and repairing storm damage. Folks who are anxious to get their homes and yards back to normal should be on the lookout for scams involving clean-up efforts, tree or limb removal, and fence and home repairs.
Storm chasers often go door-to-door after storms offering to do clean-up or repair work. In some instances, a homeowner may pay for a small amount of work to be done, only to be told after the fact that more work was completed and they now owe exorbitant amounts of money to the scammers.
BBB Tips for Dealing with Ice/Snow Storm Damage:
Be wary of door-to-door workers who show up unsolicited offering to make repairs. This includes companies offering to remove fallen trees and branches.
Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Keep copies of receipts for emergency repairs for reimbursement later.
Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid acting in haste. Don't be pressured into signing a long-term contract.
Make temporary repairs if necessary.
Take time to shop around for contractors, get competitive bids, and check out the contractor with the BBB at bbb.org. Check to make sure any contractors you are considering hiring are properly licensed and have up-to-date workers compensation and liability insurance. Make sure they are approved by your insurance company before entering an agreement. Ask to see proof of their licensing and current certificate of insurance.
Be aware that if you hire an uninsured and unlicensed contractor and a serious injury were to occur to the contractor, you, as the person that hired them, could potentially be liable for paying the workers compensation benefits. This could turn a simple $1,000 repair into a bill for tens of thousands more. In addition, a neighboring property, a passerby or other property that is negligently damaged by an unlicensed contractor can become a liability to the person that hired the contractor.
BBB can provide you a list of BBB Accredited Businesses to choose from, including roofers, tree removal companies, fence companies and other home repair businesses. Please visit http://www.bbb.org/atlanta/accredited-business-directory to search.
Get everything in writing. Prepare a written agreement with anyone you hire that outlines the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Review it carefully before signing. Vague clauses such as “repair siding” are invitations for abuse.
Never pay the full amount of repairs in advance. 30% is a standard down payment. Pay with a credit card if possible; credit cards offer you more protection if the work is not completed as specified.
Consumers should check out a company before hiring them to do work. You can even check out someone who shows up unbidden at your door while they are standing on your front porch by going to bbb.org on your smartphone by visiting http://www.bbb.org/council/programs-services/stay-connected-to-bbb/iphone/
Remember, simply buying a chain saw at Walmart doesn’t make someone a qualified tree servicer. And a large Yellow Pages ad, glitzy website or sign on a telephone pole doesn’t always translate into the best company for the job.