Avoid home repair scams after disasters
Hurricanes and tornadoes are unpredictable, and it's important to know what to do when wind and water damage your home and property. Safety comes first, so if a disaster strikes, make sure your family is OK and there are no situations that present further danger or damage to your property.
It's important to call your insurance provider as soon as possible. Many homes and rooms can be saved if cleared and attended to quickly, but if others in your community are dealing with similar issues this process can get backed up easily. Calling quickly will get the claim processed earlier. It's also a good idea to take photos of any damage to the home. Another important step is to secure the property to keep belongings safe and to prevent trespassing.
When it comes time to hire someone for restoration work, beware of scam artists. After a disaster hits an area you can be bombarded with people who don't necessarily have the licensing or credentials to be doing restoration work. Frequently, these fly-by-night operators drive vehicles with out-of-state license plates or set up temporary offices which they can vacate quickly once authorities start looking for them.
Before writing a check, and before allowing any unknown individual into your home, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry suggests that a homeowner:
- Get the name and address of the company that person allegedly represents.
- Get all details of the offer in writing and carefully review it.
- Be sure any promises made verbally are placed in writing.
- Determine how long the company has been in business and call any trade organizations with which the contractor is affiliated to determine legitimacy.
- Ask for references and contact each one.
Homeowners should be especially skeptical if people:
- Come to the door unsolicited.
- Use high-pressure sales tactics.
- Request full payment or a hefty down payment upfront.
- Give a post office box without a street address or phone number.
- Promise to begin and complete the work more quickly and cheaper than any other company.
- Say they just finished work on a neighbor's house and have just enough materials to do repair work on yours, or that they can give you a better bargain if you let them do the work today since they have the supplies now.
- Don't provide a preliminary estimation report that details the full scope of work and that can be presented to the insurance company.