Beware of storm chasers after the storm
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has urged consumers to be wary of offers from unscrupulous contractors who often surface following a hurricane.
“Slip-shod contractors prey on storm victims. They show up at the door following any disaster,” said Barbara Homiller, Senior Vice President of the Better Business Bureau serving Central Virginia. “It never fails.” She said storm victims will want to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible, but they should know their contractor before signing on the dotted line.
Recognize the red flags. Beware of any contractor who uses high pressure sales tactics or requires full payment upfront. Also avoid contractors who require you to get the necessary permits.
Examine the contractor carefully. Verify the business meets all state and local requirements including being licensed, insured and bonded. Also ask the business for references from recent jobs. Confirm whether or not the contractor will be subcontracting the job or relying on their own employees.
Beware of storm chasers. In the wake of a storm, fly-by-night repair businesses will solicit work, often door-to-door, in unmarked trucks. They might require advance payment and make big promises on which they won’t be able to deliver.
Seek at least three bids. Beware of low-ball estimates that may potentially balloon over time or foreshadow shoddy work to come.
Make sure everything is in writing. Make sure that the full scope of the work is explained in the contract including cleanup and disposal of waste. All verbal agreements need to be included in the written agreement. Pay close attention to the payment terms, estimated price of materials and labor and any warranties or guarantees.
Homiller also warned consumers to be careful before writing a check to a charity whose name is unfamiliar. She said it’s not unusual for some so-called charities to “come out of he woodwork” following a disaster.
When looking to make a donation, be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In response to the previous natural disasters, there were concerns raised about many Web sites and new organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims.
“Many of the appeals are legitimate, but some are not,” she said. “Be especially cautious with solicitations that are based on emotion and ask for an immediate contribution.”
Consumer information about contractors, builders and charities is available at the BBB at http://richmond.bbb.org or by calling the BBB at 804-648-0030.