Better Business Bureau Warns of Storm Chasers

Hurricane Sandy was anticipated  to leave a lot of damage as the massive storm ripped through the U.S. eastern coast and into Canada during the last week of October 2012. On the weekend before the storm arrived in the U.S., the Better Business Bureau issued a warning post-disaster repair scams.

While this release was timely for Hurricane Sandy, the advice given is good for type of disaster that occurs and causes damage to a home or commercial building. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warned the public not to “let disaster strike twice” by getting conned by a rogue contractor.  

Some contractors that look to drum up business in the aftermath of disaster are likely to be legitimate, however, others may only be opportunists.

“Storm chasers, door-to-door home repair salesmen and water damage companies often peddle dubious deals that can cost homeowners thousands of dollars and create serious headaches,” the organization said in its Oct. 26, 2012 release.  “Storm chasers” are individuals that try and get work, but they end up ripping consumers off by either not delivering on the services they promise to offer, or asking for payment upfront and then disappearing.”

Many of the scammers are reportedly centered around auto, cleanup, and home/yard repairs.

BBB recommends consumers take the following steps before hiring any contractor that appears on your doorstep:

• Check qualifications

BBB suggests consumers verify the contractor is licensed, insured and/or bonded. They also recommend asking for references, seeing if they belong to any professional organizations in their field, and confirming whether or not that company will be performing the work or whether or not they’ll be subcontracting it out to another business.  The organization warns not to hire anyone who does business “out of their truck” and does not have a home office

• Don’t buy on impulse

Another recommendation is not to buy a service on impulse because the work needs to get done, but get at least three estimates so you can gauge the best hire. Also, don’t forget to talk to your insurance company, as they may want to do their own assessment before repairs commence.

• Search the BBB website

The organization recommends searching companies in its Accredited Business Locator. This tool provides valuable consumer information on businesses and also other consumers can place reviews and share experiences.

It is not uncommon, even in non-storm situations, for some contractors to employ high-pressure sales, don’t allow yourself to be pressured. If they are professional, they will understand you want to explore your options before making a big financial commitment.  Additionally, ask them if they are willing to get the necessary permits that may be required before the work begins.

Insurance companies often want to survey the property before any work commences, so be sure and contact your agency as soon as possible.

Finally, when it comes time to get started on the repairs, be sure and get everything in writing with a formalized contract and never pay upfront in full in cash. Read any agreement carefully and verify the work and prices align with what you’ve agreed to prior to signing any legal documents.