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BBB Advises Watch For “Storm Chasers”

A line of severe thunderstorms dropped hail on many communities in East Texas this week, causing damage to many homes and vehicles. East Texans are no strangers to storm damage, but that does make us targets for fly-by-night contractors looking to take advantage of storm victims.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises residents to be on the lookout for storm chasers who show up unannounced, offer to repair storm damage for a low price, require advance payment, and make big promises on which they have no intention of delivering. BBB reminds consumers to look for shady contractors looking to take advantage of storm victims.

“Encountering high winds, thunderstorms, and the occasional tornado are a part of living in East Texas,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President & CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “It is important to be wary of fly-by-night repair businesses ready to pounce on storm victims as soon as the weather breaks.”

BBB offers the following advice to homeowners before hiring a contractor:

Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts if temporary repairs are necessary.

Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be proactive in selecting a business and not reactive to sales solicitations.

Shop around and get at least three estimates based on specifications and materials. Check out at least one-year-old references and verify licensing with local agencies.

Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business. If salespeople go door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.

Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure the company includes its name, address, license number, and phone number in the contract, if applicable. Please read and understand the worker’s contract, and never sign a blank contract. Ensure you receive a copy of the signed agreement at the time of signature.

If one estimate seems much lower than the others and sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors’ below-cost bids seem attractive. Still, these contracts often are uninsured, and substantial cancellation fees or liquidation damages are required if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after insurance approval of the claim.

Never pay for work in full in advance. The Better Business Bureau recommends a consumer only pay half before the contractor starts repairs and wait to pay the remaining balance until you are satisfied with the work. A good guideline is to pay by the rule of thirds: pay a one-third deposit, one-third when the job is 50% complete, and the last third on completion.

Hire locally whenever possible. If the company is not from the area, they are less likely to come back and make a repair should you find something they missed.

Remember, great businesses are out there. Always look for the BBB seal; it’s the Sign of a Better BusinessSM. Start with companies you can trust by going to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at (903)581-5704 or use BBB Scam Tracker.

About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more details. BBB offices are across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, founded in 1985 and serving 19 counties.