Recent severe storms and flash flooding have left plenty of damage in their wake. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a natural disaster often results in an influx of “storm chasers.”
These “storm chasers” are usually from out of town, unreliable and target homeowners in need of repairs. They are known to take money up front, leave jobs unfinished or not start repairs at all.
To avoid getting ripped off after disaster strikes, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says to watch out for these red flags:
- Contractors who solicit business door-to-door. Be cautious of contractors who offer vague information, don’t provide a physical address or phone number and use scare tactics (“That chimney is about to fall”).
- High-pressure sales tactics. Resist falling for phrases like the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot, or “This price is only good for today.”
- Pushy contractors. Like high-pressure sales tactics, be wary of a contractor trying to push you to sign a contract that makes them the exclusive contractor to do the repairs. This restricts you from shopping around for the best deal.
- Demand for full payment upfront. Never agree to pay in full before the job is done. It is recommended to pay one-third of the bill and pay the rest once the job is complete. This gives you a safety net if the job is not completed or the work is inferior. Pay by credit card, if possible.
Advice for finding a trustworthy repair business or contractor:
- Check with your insurance company as soon as possible. Ask about policy coverage and how to file a claim.
- Know the business you’re dealing with. Get two or three bids, and compare materials, services, and guarantees, not just the price. Ask for customer references directly from the business. Finally, check out the business at bbb.org.
- Take notice of the contractor’s vehicle. Look for signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and appropriate state license plates.
- Read and understand the contract and guarantee. Make sure you get a written estimate and contract. The contract should include a written description of the work to be done, and the price of labor and materials. If the company makes any verbal promises, make sure they are in writing. The guarantee should describe what’s covered, for how long, and what the company will do to honor those promises.
- Don’t make the final payment or sign a completion agreement until all the work is done to your satisfaction. Don’t fall for promises to return and take care of final details. It may be difficult to get the company to return once the job is paid for and signed off.
- File a complaint if needed. First, try to work out problems directly with the business. If a problem is not resolved, file a complaint with your BBB at bbb.org/central-texas.
- Know where to turn. Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your BBB have many resources available to help families prepare for what to do before, during and after disaster strikes.